Inmate recovering from COVID-19 imprisoned again despite temporary suspension of sentence

Ahmet Türkmen, 68, a businessman convicted on terrorism charges due to alleged links to Gülen movement, was re-imprisoned last Thursday before the expiration of a temporary suspension of his sentence despite the fact that he was still recovering from COVID-19-related complications.

According to Bold Medya, Türkmen contracted COVID-19 two months ago and was in intensive care for three weeks. He had undergone bypass surgery in the past and his lungs are now damaged due to COVID-19, necessitating oxygen therapy. His sentence was temporarily suspended until February 20 due to his health; yet, he was arrested on January 14, following the issuance of another hospital report stating that he was fit to return to prison. He is currently in the infirmary at Bünyan Prison in Kayseri province.

Human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu criticized the decision on Twitter, saying the authorities should have waited for a decision from the Institute of Forensic Medicine before imprisoning Türkmen.

Türkmen was arrested on June 30, 2017 on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and was sentenced to 15 years, three months’ imprisonment.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group 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 a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on November 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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