Teacher suffering from cancer jailed over alleged Gülen links

Fatımatüzzehra Babacan, 39, a teacher struggling with thyroid cancer for the past 10 years, was imprisoned on Friday after an appeals court upheld her six year, three month prison sentence for membership in a terrorist organization, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Her mother, Ayşe Taşpınar, protested the court decision. “How will a cancer patient survive in the poor conditions of a prison?” she asked. “My daughter is not a thief, not an evil person or a criminal; how is this fair?”

Babacan is a mother of two, an 11-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy. She will be in a quarantine cell in Afyon Prison until August 13, before joining other prisoners.

Babacan was previously arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement due to membership in an association and based on the testimony of one of her former students, who said she was teaching them how to recite the Qur’an. She was arrested in September 2016 while she was still receiving cancer treatment and released pending trial 22 months later.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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 a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights defender and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing party with majority-Kurdish support, criticized Babacan’s arrest on Twitter.

“Every day a hapless person is sent to the dungeon,” Gergerlioğlu said. “How many patients are imprisoned!? How many families are ruined?”

Gergerlioğlu has been criticizing authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners until it is too late for them to receive effective treatment.

“They refuse to release the prisoners until it comes to the point of no return. They only release the prisoners when they realize they will die soon, not wanting them to die in prison,” he once said.

He claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

According to a statement from Turkish 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 Gülen movement.

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