Inmate held in isolation for 4 years for no apparent reason

Halil İbrahim Gül with his family, Ardahan Prison, June 7, 2019,

Halil İbrahim Gül, a financial advisor arrested on trumped-up terrorism-related charges, has been isolated in a one-man cell in Turkey for four years, effectively cutting him off from contact with the rest of the prison population.

“He began to have health problems. They won’t provide any explanation as to why they’ve been keeping him in a cell by himself,” his wife said.

Gül was arrested on July 19, 2016, following an abortive coup four days earlier, on charges of links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based dissident group that has long been persecuted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He has been kept in a one-man cell in a prison in the eastern Anatolian city of Ardahan since September 23, 2016 despite a regulation forbidding solitary confinement more than 20 days.

Gül has sent many petitions to the prison administration asking for the reason he has been kept in isolation but has received no answer to date. “They don’t explain why they put them in one-man cells. There’s no logical explanation. My husband thinks that he was isolated like this because he tried to keep the mood of his fellow prisoners up,” his wife said.

President Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the coup attempt and started a witch hunt against its members, in which some 150,000 civil servants have been dismissed from state jobs and almost 600,000 people investigated, with half of them detained or arrested over Gülen links.

Meral Gül said they had lived in Artvin for nine years and that she had moved to their hometown of Samsun on the Black Sea coast some 500 kilometers away after her husband was arrested, adding that she could not see him for months because of the distance and the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My husband also began to develop health problems. His blood pressure is constantly falling. He developed vitiligo, a skin condition that causes a loss of color in patches of skin. In addition, he suffers from psychological disorders,” she added.

Gül was sentenced to 10 years in prison based on informant testimony that he was a Gülenist and for using a messaging application called ByLock which, authorities claim, was solely used by members of the movement. His sentence has yet to be reviewed by a court of appeals.

Pursuing a feud that originated from what is widely known as the December 17 and 25, 2013 corruption investigations that implicated President Erdoğan, four of his ministers and his close associates, which he attributed to the Gülen movement, he designated the movement as a terrorist organization and deemed any connection to the movement on par with membership in a terrorist organization, thereby making Gülenism a crime by association.

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