Paralyzed inmate has been awaiting presidential pardon for a year amid health concerns

Şerife Sulukan, a woman suffering from paralysis and epilepsy who is jailed for links to the faith-based Gülen movement, has been awaiting a presidential decision on her release for nearly a year after medical authorities found her unfit to remain in prison , the Bold Medya news website reported.

Her son, Bahadır Sulukan, made a public appeal on social media, urging action from the president’s office: “My mother is paralyzed, epileptic and severely disabled. She needs care. Her file is waiting for the president’s signature. It’s not difficult. I want justice.”

Sulukan, a former physics teacher, was sent to prison in May 2022 after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a prison sentence of six years, three months on conviction of affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement. Sulukan’s husband, Coşkun Sulukan, was also imprisoned on the same grounds and is still in prison.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In June 2022 Sulukan suffered an epileptic seizure in prison and was not given proper medical care, she reported in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights advocate Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. Despite undergoing major heart surgery in September 2022, she was initially deemed fit for imprisonment by Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK). However, the ATK reversed this decision in 2023, declaring her unfit to remain behind bars.

Sulukan’s mother also voiced her deep concerns: “The ATK said she cannot stay in prison; her file is in front of you. Please sign my daughter’s file so she can be released.”

Turkish authorities have denied political prisoners, even those with critical illnesses, release from prison so they can at least seek proper treatment. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners.

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