Former teacher arrested on Gülen charges says heating cut off in cell despite cold temperatures

A former teacher arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement told his family during a phone call on Tuesday that the heating in his one-person cell was cut off despite the cold weather, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Seyit Mehmet Ünal said he tried to warm himself with a hot water bottle. Despite writing to the prison administration several times, the heating problem was not solved and Ünal was told the prison building was new and that some amenities could not be provided.

Ünal was arrested in August 2016 and put in a one-person cell in central Turkey’s Yozgat T-Type Prison. He was accused of working for a private education center affiliated with the movement, tried and convicted and sentenced to 10 years, six months in prison.

Ünal’s wife said she sent several petitions asking that her husband be transferred to a normal cell where he would have cellmates but that all her appeals were rejected.

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 the 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.

The purge of thousands of dissidents in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016 has filled Turkey’s prisons, which today are overcrowded with tens of thousands of political prisoners.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service (DW), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu earlier said the Ministry of Justice had not disclosed the exact number of people in solitary cells.

Gergerlioğlu added that according to the law an inmate can only be held in a solitary cell for a maximum of 20 days but that currently there were inmates in solitary cells who had been there for more than two years.

Human rights activists have said the number of prisoners in solitary cells reaches into the thousands.

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