Turkish court arrests student for receiving money from relatives abroad

Esengül Arslan

Esengül Arslan, a 23-year-old nursing student in Istanbul, was arrested on Friday for receiving funds sent by her relatives abroad, which Turkish authorities have labeled as “terrorism financing,” the Kronos news website reported.

Arslan was one of 90 people detained on Thursday on alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Arslan’s brother, Ömer Arslan, announced his sister’s arrest on social media. “They arrested my sister and destroyed the future of a young girl. For what? Should I not have sent money? Should I not have helped her?”

Esengül’s mother, Gülizar Arslan, said her daughter told her, “Mom, I didn’t do anything wrong. My conscience is clear. Don’t worry.”

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker and prominent human rights advocate, criticized Arslan’s arrest on X. “While real criminals are out in the streets, they arrest innocent people like her,” Gergerlioğlu stated.

The Arslan family’s situation worsened after two major earthquakes that struck 11 provinces in Turkey’s south and southeast in February 2023 left more than 53,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands injured or displaced while causing massive devastation.

The Turkish government accepted such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institutions linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines as benchmarks for identifying and arresting tens of thousands alleged members of the movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

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

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