Parents of 8-year-old boy suffering from epilepsy to serve sentences on Gülen link convictions

Another sick child has been left without parents as the mother and father of an 8-year-old boy suffering from epilepsy were arrested in Edirne on August 18 to serve prison sentences handed down for alleged links to the Gülen movement, Bold Medya reported.

Cemile and Mehmet Dönmez also have an 18-month-old daughter. The children, Mesut and Nil, were sent to live with their grandparents.

Both parents were teachers before they were summarily dismissed from their positions in 2016 by an executive decree. An account in their names at the now-closed Gülen-linked Bank Asya, and alleged use of the ByLock messaging app were used as evidence against them in court. Mehmet Dönmez was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison, while Cemile Dönmez received six years, three months.

Their cases are currently before of the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay).

Following an abortive putsch in July 2016, 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, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, 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.

Turkish 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 the coup attempt that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The Turkish Parliament removed from a bill that was passed in June an article postponing the prison sentences of mothers with children under 15 years of age whose husbands are also in prison, according to Turkish media.

The article was part of legislation aimed at making improvements to the law on the execution of sentences. The bill was approved by parliament after the article was removed. The amendment would have reunited some 3,000 imprisoned women with their children.

The arrest of both parents who have sick children has previously sparked public outrage. The latest case concerned 11-year-old Hakan Dağdeviren, who was diagnosed with leukemia after his parents’ arrest for alleged links to the movement.

The young boy was separated from his parents and made to suffer alone. Hakan’s grandparents, who are his current caregivers, said he was depressed and had lost the will to live. His grandparents and human rights activists have pleaded with authorities to release Hakan’s mother at least so she can be by his side.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.

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