Mother of toddler arrested in defiance of legal provisions

Sultan and İbrahim Ataş, the parents of a 14-month-old-toddler and a 3-year-old girl, were arrested on Sunday despite legal provisions that require postponement of the execution of prison sentences for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.

According to a report by Bold Medya, the couple was detained on September 24 on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and arrested yesterday.

İbrahim Ataş was a science teacher who was summarily dismissed from his job in the aftermath of a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016. The prosecution cited his account at the now-shuttered Bank Asya and his membership in an NGO that was shut down after the failed coup as evidence of his membership in the Gülen movement, a religious group inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric living in the US. Both institutions were closed for their alleged affiliation with the movement.

His wife Sultan Ataş was a biology teacher working at a university prep school shut down after the coup attempt. Her job there and a bank account at Bank Asya were cited as evidence of her membership in the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.

As part of the crackdown Erdoğan shut down over 1,000 educational institutions and dismissed some 150,000 public servants including members of the armed forces, police officers, teachers, doctors and academics by emergency decree-laws, locking up hundreds of thousands and seizing their assets.

Human rights defender and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu shared the news from his Twitter account. He said the couple’s baby girl is normally breastfed and hasn’t eaten properly since her parents were detained.

The children are currently taken care of by their grandmother and grandfather. They took the baby to the prison yesterday so that she could be breastfed, but the prison administration refused to allow the visit due to COVID-19 measures. Her mother will be quarantined for 14 days and will not be able to breastfeed her daughter during that period.

According to legal experts, the arrest of pregnant women or women with babies falls afoul of the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, which stipulates that “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.” But the detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with babies have been continuing unabated in Turkey.

In June, HDP deputy Gergerlioğlu submitted a parliamentary question to Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül about similar cases. He asked if any investigations had been launched into judges and prosecutors who have approved the arrest of pregnant women or women who have given birth within the last 18 months for violating the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures. He also inquired if they have received secret instructions to approve the arrests.

Gergerlioğlu also filed a complaint with the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) claiming that by acting against the relevant laws and the criteria set by the European Court of Human Rights regarding arrests, judges and prosecutors have abused their powers and therefore must be criminally prosecuted.

The detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children dramatically increased in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt.

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