Paralyzed former teacher arrested to serve sentence for conviction of Gülen links

A former teacher who has been suffering from paralysis for 19 months was sent to prison after a top appeals court upheld a sentence handed down to her due to her affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Serife Sulukan, 45, is almost totally disabled and unable to take care of herself. She cannot walk without help or use the bathroom on her own. Doctors have warned Sulukan that she could suffer another stroke in the near future.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said on Twitter Sulukan’s arrest was outrageous and called on authorities to immediately release her.

Sulukan was sentenced to six years, three months and sent to a prison in western Edirne province. She was accused of sending her children to a private school affiliated with the movement.

In an earlier interview with Bold Medya, Sulukan said her children had attended private schools on state scholarships. “So if these schools were illegal, why then did the state pay my children’s tuition?” she said.

Sulukan was also accused of using the ByLock smart phone application; however, the telephone was registered in her husband’s name.

Turkey considers ByLock, once widely available online, a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch, leading to the arrest of thousands who were using it.

The Gülen movement is accused by the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Sulukan’s husband was arrested in December 2017 on similar charges and is currently in a prison in southeastern Urfa province.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Züleyha Gülüm, a deputy from the HDP, said Turkish prisons were turning into scenes of massacre and that political prisoners were the most disadvantaged.

According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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