Motherless children left to care of relatives after father sent to prison over Gülen links

Two motherless children aged 7 and 2 were left to the care of their relatives in different cities after their father was sent to prison last Thursday to serve a terrorism-related sentence due to his alleged ties to the Gülen movement, Bold Medya news website reported.

Muhammed Hanefi Aksoy was working at a student dormitory affiliated with the movement before it was shut down in 2016. He was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison on conviction of membership in a terrorist organization for working at a Gülen-affiliated institution, having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time, and using the ByLock encrypted messaging app.

His wife Nagihan Aksoy died in September in a traffic accident. She was a former teacher dismissed from her job by an emergency decree due to her alleged links to the Gülen movement. Two-year-old Fatih is currently staying with his uncle in Yalova province, and Hümeyra is with her aunt in Nevşehir province, 700 kilometers away. Their father is in a prison in İzmir.

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. The government 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.

Turkey considers ByLock, once available in Google Play and Apple’s App Store, a secret tool of communication among supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement, leading to the arrest of thousands who were using it. The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in October 2018 that detention, arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated of Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

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