Social media campaign urges release of ailing inmate

Social media users on Thursday called on Turkish authorities to release Ali Odabaşı, the former legal counsel for the now-closed Zaman daily, who has been denied parole despite suffering from serious health issues.

Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down along with dozens of other media outlets due to their links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

“My father had four operations while in prison. He has an enlarged cardiac valve, a kidney stone and an internal abdominal rupture,” his son said on X.

Odabaşı was detained in 2016 as he was attempting to flee to Greece. Shortly after, he was sentenced to six years, three months in prison for links to the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of 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 abortive putsch in 2016, which he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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