Family says they don’t know whereabout of jailed visually impaired Turkish journalist Arat

Visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat.

The family member of the visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat, who has been under arrest over his alleged ties to the Gülen movement since July 10, 2017, have announced on Saturday that they could not find Arat in his ward in Tarsus Prison and they have not been given information about where he is kept now.

Journalist Arat was sentenced on Feb. 22, 2017 to 6 years and 3 months in prison on charges of membership to the Gülen movement while also getting 10 months and 15 days of jail term for allegedly promoting a “terrorist” organization.

He was put behind bars after an upper court upheld one of his convictions, on July 10, 2017. Arat, who is 90 percent visually disabled, had stated that he was sent to Tarsus Prison for the first time and later transferred to Mersin E-type Closed Prison.

His family members have stated in his personal Twitter account on Saturday that Arat was trying to be sent to Ankara. Despite Arat reportedly told his family during their last phone call to him that “I saw the director. If you do not want we will not send you anywhere,” he could not be reached on Saturday. His family members have stated that they worry about Arat’s health and wellbeing.

Arat’s family has announced on Monday on his personal Twitter account the information that they got about Arat’s transfer from Mersin Prison to a prison in Menemen district of İzmir province.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 240 journalists and media workers are in jails as of February 22, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 205 are arrested pending trial, only 35 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 140 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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