Jailed visually impaired Turkish journalist still lack of lawyer to take assistance for his defence before courts

Visually impaired journalist Cüneyt Arat was under house arrest wearing an electronic ankle bracelet from July 2016 to February 2017.

A letter sent by visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat, who was sent to prison last July due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement, on the occasion of the International Day of Person with Disabilities, shows that he has still no lawyer to defend him against groundless charges.

In the letter he sent from a prison in Tarsus, southern Turkey, where he has been incarcerated since August 2017, Arat stated that “Despite the fact that I am being judged for more than 5  years and heavily disabled, I have not been able to receive legal assistance. Therefore, I have defended myself without a lawyer in the courts. In addition, the Notification of Appeal Approval has not been conveyed to me. I wish that a dedicated lawyer will support me voluntarily and allow me to be retried.”

Cüneyt Arat, who is 90 percent visually disabled, stated in his letter that “Today is December 3, the International Day of Person with Disabilities. Today, camera flashes will be at the disabled. Appointed and elected people will pretend as showing empathy to disabled and obtain political rent through us. With fancy sentences, they will become the center of attention for the press and the handicapped. They will not remember that thousands of disabled have been dismissed from public institutions and that hundreds of them have been arrested.”

“The media, which became a single voice, will not be able to bring the illegalities to the public attention that we are suffering from,” said Arat and added that “Political parties’ representatives will not shout out that the prisons have not been reconditioned for disabled people and their reasonable demands have not been met.

“On December 3, 2016, I was so upset to be unable to attend the events organized for us because I was under house arrest. Now I can not be with special people because I am in prison with a lot of unlawfulness. At the nearest time, the disabled people should be given their professions in public offices back to them by giving their reputation and the ones imprisoned should be released,” wrote Arat in his letter.

Arat congratulated all the “special people” on December 3 the International Day of Person with Disabilities, and ended his letter by saying that “I wish that the victimization that we have experienced will come to an end.”

Arat was sentenced on Feb. 22, 2017 to 6 years, 3 months due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement. He was also given 1 year, 10 months and 15 days for promoting a “terrorist” organization. He was arrested on July 21, 2016 for social media posts that allegedly praised the Gülen movement.

The disabled journalist was placed under house arrest wearing an electronic ankle bracelet until February.

Arat was given a suspended sentence in June by an Adana court for praising US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement he inspired. In his last tweets late on July 10, 2017, Arat said his Twitter account would be managed by a friend of his who is abroad if he was put in jail and said he might be tricked and forced to sign some declaration or documents he doesn’t agree with. “Let my friends know that I never did anything I should regret,” he tweeted.

In series of tweets after his arrest, Arat’s friend shared photos of him while he was being taken to prison from the police station where he turned himself in.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 257 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 4, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 231 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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