Sick and bedridden wife of jailed 86-year-old Turkish philanthropist Afşar dies

Feride Afşar, the sick and bedridden wife of 86-year-old Turkish philanthropist Celal Afşar, who has been jailed since July 2018 over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, passed away on Friday.

Celal Afşar was arrested along with his daughter, son-in-law and two others in Niğde province as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Afşar is known as a philanthropist in his hometown, with public broadcaster TRT in 2011 depicting his life as an example of dedication to charity. Afşar was accused of providing financial support to a “terrorist organization.”

Celal Afşar had stated during his defense in his first hearing held at the Niğde 2nd High Criminal Court that “I did not try to hide from the law. I had to take care of my sick and bedridden wife.”

Celal Afşar had requested his release from prison after giving his defense to take care of his wife. However, the court rejected his request and ruled for the continuation of the famous philanthropist’s imprisonment.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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