Arzu Nur Özkan, an eight-months-pregnant former teacher, said the mistreatment she has endured in prison made her wish she could die, Bold Medya reported.
According to the recording of a phone call with a family member, Özkan said she was mocked by prison doctors and that her multiple health problems were not taken seriously. “I have been put through things I can only describe as torture,” she said in tears. “I want to die rather than continue suffering like this.”
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Özkan was two months pregnant when she was arrested. She already had a high-risk pregnancy and had been taking medication before going to prison. “Hospital visits are very trying,” said Özkan. “I don’t even know the results of medical tests as I’m not allowed to talk to the doctor after being tested,” she added.
Every time she returned to prison from visiting the hospital, Özkan had to stay in a quarantine cell, notorious for their poor conditions, due to COVID19-related measures.
Stressing that her problems were far more than what she made public, Özkan said she could not talk openly about even half the things she was made to endure in prison.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called Özkan’s father yesterday and said he would appoint a deputy to monitor Özkan’s situation.
It was revealed by Özkan’s sister today on Twitter that there was a COVID-19 outbreak in her ward, placing the mother and her unborn child in further danger.
Özkan was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization for her alleged links to the Gülen movement. Working at a pre-school affiliated with movement followers, witness testimony and an account in her name at the now-closed Bank Asya were used as evidence against her. She was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison. Her case is pending appeal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, 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.
After a month in Edirne Prison Özkan was transferred Bünyan Prison in Kayseri province, a distance of more than 1,000 kilometers, by car. She travelled in handcuffs for 16 hours.
“I threw up frequently during the journey, and my handcuffs were not removed even when vomiting,” she said in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. “My already poor health deteriorated even further.”
In her letter Özkan appealed to Turkish authorities for conditional release, saying she didn’t want to give birth while in prison.
The Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures stipulates that even if a pregnant woman is convicted, her sentence must be postponed. The law stipulates that “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.”
Yet, according to a report by Solidarity with OTHERS, a nongovernmental organization comprising mainly political exiles from Turkey, a total of 219 pregnant women and women with children under 6 years of age were arbitrarily detained or arrested over their suspected links to the Gülen movement.