Teacher to serve sentence on Gülen link conviction despite severe illness

Cafer Türker Hadimioğlu, 44, a math teacher designated as disabled by a medical board for suffering from ulcerative colitis and diabetes, was sent to prison on Tuesday after an appeals court approved his conviction on terrorism related charges, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Hadimioğlu was working at a private school affiliated with the Gülen movement before it was shut down after a coup attempt in July 2016. He was sentenced to two years, one month in prison for aiding a terrorist organization due to his alleged ties to the movement.

The court based its decision on Hadimioğlu’s account in the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time which was affiliated with the Gülen movement, and the testimony of two of his former students. One of them said Hadimioğlu used to give them religious talks. The other only said, “He helped me when I was settling into a dormitory.”

Hadimioğlu’s disability card issued by Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policies.

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.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. It can be debilitating and can lead to life-threatening complications.

Hadimioğlu’s wife said he was jailed at a difficult time when he had a flare-up, which causes a dramatic loss of weight. The flare-ups can last for a couple of months.

“He hasn’t even been able to stand for long since 2016,” she said. “The doctor said the disease can develop into cancer. He needs to be taken care of and will be at risk in prison.”

According to former deputy and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu Turkish prisoners do not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

Turkish authorities “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,” Gergerlioğlu said.

According to Human Rights Watch, people alleged to have links with the Gülen movement is the largest group targeted by Erdoğan. In a February statement Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said 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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