Former teacher looking after ALS patient spouse imprisoned over Gülen links

Şükrü İpek, a former teacher convicted on terrorism charges for his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was sent to prison on Tuesday after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his sentence, leaving his wife, who has ALS, without care, the Bold Medya news web site reported.

İpek’s wife Ayşe İpek, 42, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a rare neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. All voluntary muscles are gradually affected, and individuals lose their strength and the ability to speak, eat, move and even breathe. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from the manifestation of symptoms.

Ayşe was diagnosed with ALS four years ago. Since then, the disease has progressed, and she is currently having difficulty moving and is unable to take care of her most basic needs, such as drinking water.

The couple were both teachers at a private school in Eskişehir province. The school was shut down by an emergency decree in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 due to its affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement. They were prohibited from teaching again, so Şükrü İpek had to work at various jobs such as house painter and moving company worker to look after his family.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and 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.

Şükrü İpek was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization and sentenced to six years, three months but was released pending appeal. He will remain in prison for 38 months before he’s eligible for parole.

Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu announced Şükrü İpek’s arrest on Twitter on Wednesday.

Quoting a previous tweet, posted as part of a social media campaign back in July with the tag “Şükrüİpek CezaevineGirmesin” (Şükrü İpek shouldn’t be imprisoned), Gergerlioğlu said Ayşe İpek does not have a caregiver and cannot stay alone.

According to Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, a total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.

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