Inmate suffering from cancer to return to prison after major surgery

Gülden Aşık with her children

Gülden Aşık, a woman jailed on conviction of links to the Gülen movement who recently underwent surgery for thyroid cancer, is about to return to prison a few days after her release from intensive care, the Kronos news website reported on Tuesday.

Aşık’s surgery involved the removal of her thyroid gland and a lymph node, the report said.

She was kept in prison despite an August 2022 hospital report stating that her incarceration posed a serious risk. The Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) disregarded the report and said she was fit for imprisonment.

Aşık was arrested in April 2019, soon after which she learned that she was pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage in prison in the seventh week of her pregnancy.

She was sentenced to more than six years in prison on Gülen links, and her sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Her conviction was based on her use of ByLock, a mobile messaging app that Turkish authorities claim was used exclusively among the members of the Gülen movement, and on witness testimonies denouncing her affiliation with the group.

Turkish authorities continue to use ByLock as evidence in detaining and prosecuting people in disregard of a landmark European Court of Human Rights judgment last year that said the use of the app by itself cannot be construed as evidence of “terrorism.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim 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 an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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