A former military cadet who was arrested in May to serve a seven year, six month sentence for links to the Gülen movement said in a letter from prison that his life has been stolen.
According to the Bold Medya news website, 22-year-old Mustafa Enis Durak wrote a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu saying he still had hope justice would eventually prevail thanks to the people who demanded his release.
“I only wanted to serve my country,” he said. “But they stole my dreams, and my future. My family has suffered along with me, and I have nothing to hold on to. Nevertheless, I have seen how you have shown solidarity with me and demanded my release on several occasions. I would like to thank you and everyone who has supported me with this letter.”
Durak was a third-year medical student at the time of his arrest. He had been arrested three times over the last six months. He was first arrested on December 6, 2021 but was released 20 days later. He was re-arrested on April 14 and sent to a prison in Izmir only to be released a week later.
Durak was accused of taking part in religious meetings when he was a military cadet and observing Islamic practices such as praying, which are strictly regulated by the Turkish army. He was pressured to give up the names of his friends who attended the meetings; however, Durak refused and denied all the accusations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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. He 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.
Durak’s family said the young boy was only 14 when he was accepted at a military high school in Istanbul. He was 16 when the coup attempt took place, and according to his family, he cannot be held accountable.
Shortly after the coup attempt, the government closed war academies, military high schools and prep schools and replaced them with a military university under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense.
A total of 259 military cadets were detained on coup charges on July 16, 2016 and were arrested four days later. The cadets were indicted a year after they were put in pretrial detention, and their trial was concluded in May 2018.
One hundred seventy-eight of the cadets were given life sentences on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and parliament by use of force as well as membership in a terrorist organization.
The cadets say they didn’t know a coup attempt was underway and were acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack.