A critically ill woman who suffers from a rare form of cancer and was sent to prison to serve a sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement earlier this month had to be taken to the doctor 19 times in the 14 days she has been incarcerated, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.
Ayşe Özdoğan, 34, a former teacher, was handed down a nine-year, four-month sentence for alleged links to the Gülen movement. An appeals court on June 11 upheld her sentence despite severe health problems.
In a controversial decision, the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine stated on Oct. 1 that Özdoğan was fit to remain in prison and that there was no sign of metastasis of the cancer in her body.
Özdoğan was sent to prison on Oct. 2 in the western province of Denizli after authorities refused to postpone the execution of her sentence, in a move that has drawn criticism from human rights activists, doctors, opposition politicians, journalists and social media users.
According to e-Pulse, an online personal health record system of the Turkish Health Ministry, Özdoğan has been taken to hospitals in Denizli and Antalya 19 times since Oct. 3.
Every time she is taken outside the prison, she is put in isolation when she returns in line with pandemic measures.
Özdoğan’s sister Emine Erdem, who has been campaigning on Twitter for the release of her sister, tweeted on Thursday: “Have we left Ayşe Özdoğan to slowly die in prison before the eyes of Turkey and the world? Have we accepted this? No, I don’t accept it. I demand the postponement of her sentence until her treatment is completed.”
Özdoğan and her husband were detained on April 8, 2019 for alleged links to the movement, but she was released due to her son’s heart condition. Her husband was sent to prison in southern Antalya province.
Özdoğan developed cancer seven months later and underwent an operation on Nov. 12, 2019. However, she was arrested shortly thereafter, convicted and sentenced.
Özdoğan’s arrest sparked outrage, and thanks to an online campaign started by Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, she was released pending appeal on Dec. 27, 2019.
It was already too late for her second surgery, however, as the cancer had spread. Özdoğan’s teeth, palate, zygomatic bone and lymph nodes were removed in an emergency operation. Özdoğan lost her ability to see and hear after the operation due to the trauma her facial bones suffered.
Özdoğan previously said she could no longer eat solid foods and suffered from a chronic infection in her sinuses, where a tumor was removed. She added that she could not chew or swallow because of the cancer.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.