Human rights activist and mother of jailed cadet arrested for terrorist propaganda

Melek Çetinkaya (L) on Akit TV.

Melek Çetinkaya, the mother of a former military cadet who was sentenced to life in prison after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, was arrested by an İstanbul court on Friday on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, the Turkish Minute news website reported.

Çetinkaya, who has been struggling to draw officials’ attention to her son’s situation for several years, appeared on a pro-government online TV channel, Akit TV, earlier this week.

Furkan, Çetinkaya’s son, was among more than 300 former military cadets who were sentenced to life for “attempting to overthrow the government” and allegedly participating in the abortive putsch in July 2016. They were mainly deployed to the Bosporus Bridge, which is now called the July 15 Martyrs Bridge.

However, the families of the ex-cadets argue that their sons and daughters were brought to the bridge without any prior knowledge about a coup attempt.

The former cadets defended themselves in court, saying they were ordered to take the İstanbul bridge as a precaution for an anticipated terrorist attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

ISIL had launched eight attacks in Turkish provinces, including İstanbul, in 2015 and 2016.

Turkey accuses Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Islamic cleric, and his followers, of orchestrating the failed coup, although they strongly deny any involvement.

Çetinkaya was asked by the program host during the Akit TV show whether she sees Gülen as a “terrorist.”

“I don’t know Fethullah Gülen, therefore I can’t say if he’s a terrorist or not. But as you said, I have neighbors and friends who were his followers. I believe they’re decent people. I don’t think they’re terrorists,” Çetinkaya answered.

Her remarks regarding Gülen were later targeted by pro-government journalists and newspapers.

Çetinkaya has become a dedicated activist following the handing down of her son’s life sentence, participating in street protests organized by purge victims who were dismissed from their state jobs by the government after the coup attempt.

A post-coup crackdown targeting Gülen followers and other dissidents in Turkey has negatively affected lives of millions.

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