Former university rector fighting cancer acquitted in Gülen-linked case

Professor Mustafa Hoşcoşkun

A Turkish court has found a former university rector innocent after he was subjected to legal harassment including detention and house arrest — all while fighting cancer — on terrorism-related charges due to his alleged links to a faith-based group, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Kronos news website.

Professor Mustafa Cüneyt Hoşcoşkun, a surgeon and former rector of the İzmir-based Ege University, was facing a prison sentence of up to 15 years on charges of membership in a terrorist organization based on his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016 and labels it as a terrorist organization. Gülen and his movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch and any terrorist activity.

The professor was acquitted of the charges filed against him at the second hearing of his trial at the İzmir 13th High Criminal Court on Tuesday.

A witness in the trial, identified only by the initials A.M.G., told the court that he had no idea about the professor’s links to the Gülen movement and had never seen him attending any Gülen-linked activities.

The prosecutor said in his opinion to the court that Hoşcoşkun should be handed down a prison sentence of up to 10 years on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

In his defense statement, Hoşcoşkun said he was being slandered and denied the accusations against him and asked for his acquittal.

The court acquitted the professor of the charges directed against him.

Hoşcoşkun was appointed as the rector of Ege University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in August 2016 following a coup attempt a month earlier. He was suspended in February 2017 and removed by government decree in August 2017, one of some 130,000 civil servants who were fired via government decrees under a state of emergency declared following the failed coup.

A detention warrant was subsequently issued for Hoşcoşkun. He had been at large until July 2023, when he was detained upon his arrival at the Ege University Hospital to undergo treatment for colon cancer and kidney failure.

After receiving medical treatment for two weeks, he was arrested and put under house arrest a month later due to his health problems and the absence of him posing a flight risk.

The indictment against the professor cited his daughter’s attendance at the Gülen-linked and now-closed Yamanlar Private High School in İzmir as evidence of his affiliation with the movement in addition to his being one of the founders of a now-closed doctors’ foundation.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of a teacher last September that acts considered by Turkish courts to be criminal activity on the part of Gülen movement members, such as use of the ByLock smart phone application, depositing money at a Gülen-linked bank or being a member of a Gülen-affiliated association, cannot be considered criminal evidence against Gülen movement members.

Thousands of people including ailing and elderly people and pregnant women were prosecuted and arrested on terrorism charges due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement in a massive crackdown launched after the coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

Scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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