Paralyzed woman sent to prison after terrorism conviction on Gülen links

A wheelchair-bound woman who has been suffering from multiple sclerosis for 14 years 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, Turkish Minute reported, citing an opposition lawmaker.

“A paralyzed woman is in prison on Women’s Day. Mehtap Şentürk has been suffering from MS for 14 years, her mother used to take care of her, she is 85 percent disabled and has to wear diapers,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu tweeted.

Şentürk, a science teacher, was sent to Sincan Prison in Ankara last week after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a prison sentence of seven years on charges of terrorist organization membership due to her links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Gergerlioğlu said he went to Sincan Prison on Tuesday to speak to the prison administration about the woman’s condition but that the warden refused to see him.

Gergerlioğlu said Şentürk’s husband is also in prison due to a Gülen-linked trial.

There are currently thousands of women, some with their children, in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to their affiliation with the Gülen movement. They are accused of or convicted of terrorism for such acts as using the ByLock smartphone app, which is believed to be a secret tool of communication among followers of the movement, depositing money at a Gülen-linked bank, sending their children to Gülen-linked schools or simply for attending religious talks organized by the movement.

These women say their imprisonment is politically motivated and that they have nothing to do with terrorism while complaining that they are subjected to various rights violations in jail.

There have even been cases when women arrested on Gülen links died in jail after they were denied critical medication by the prison authorities or when women were sent to jail immediately after delivery with their newborns, contrary to the law.

Turkey’s women rights organizations and opposition parties are criticized for turning a blind eye to the plight of these women and not raising their voices against their imprisonment on what many say are politically motivated charges.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen 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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.

 

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