Teacher imprisoned on trumped-up terrorism charges fights illness and inefficient court system

Ferhan Demir

Ferhan Demir, a physics teacher arrested on terrorism-related charges, is fighting serious problems with his gallbladder and kidney and an inefficient court system, which for six months couldn’t decide in which court he should be prosecuted.

Demir was detained on July 24, 2019, and later arrested on the charge of membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. The only evidence that the prosecution presented to the court was Demir’s membership in two labor unions, his account at a commercial bank that the government associates with the Gülen movement and a couple of tweets he had posted on Twitter.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.

In the aftermath of the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and summarily fired over 150,000 public servants from various institutions using emergency decree-laws. The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included people from a wide variety of other backgrounds as well.

Demir was detained in the Black Sea city of Trabzon where he resided at the time and was taken to the northeastern city of Artvin, where he was arrested by the court. But the court decided to transfer his case to Trabzon, claiming that he needed to be tried there because this was the city where he was initially detained. For six months his case was in limbo until an appeals court ruled that Demir’s case should be tried in Trabzon. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 7.

According to his wife Hümeyra Demir, Ferhan Demir’s health continues to deteriorate due to prison conditions, and his treatment was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “He has polyps in his gallbladder, and they keep growing. They need to be gotten under control. If not, they’ll cause pain and increase the risk of cancer,” she said.

Based on her account, Ferhan Demir also has serious problems with one of his kidneys and occasionally passes kidney stones. This causes a lot of pain and makes it difficult for him to move. Hümeyra Demir said: “We can’t find anyone to listen to our concerns. … My husband submitted his medical reports to the court six months ago and told the judge about his condition.”

The couple has two daughters, three and five years old. In a video message to the Bold Medya news site, their elder daughter said: “I don’t want to run to the phone every time it rings thinking that dad is calling. I would like to see my father while he is still alive. I would like us to become a family again.”

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