Late-stage cancer patient arrested over Gülen links

Refik Yeşil, 68, a late stage cancer patient, was arrested on Monday on terrorism charges for alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Police officers first made contact with Yeşil during a morning hospital visit and asked about his illness. They later went to his house in the afternoon and detained him. He was arrested by a court after spending the night in a police detention center in Antalya province.

Yeşil was diagnosed with lymphoma five months ago and was going through diagnostic tests in preparation for his fourth round of chemotherapy. He is accused of membership in a terrorist organization for managing a labor union, AKÇADER, which was closed down for its alleged links to the Gülen movement; for having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time; and for using the ByLock encrypted messaging app. The app was widely available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but the government claims it was exclusively used by followers of the movement and considers it evidence of terrorist activity.

Yeşil’s trial is expected to begin on January 18.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. They intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that they accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The Turkish government accepted such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institutions linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines as benchmarks for identifying and arresting tens of thousands alleged members of the movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

According to a statement by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as of November 15, 2021 a total of 319,587 people had been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.

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