Turkish court arrests woman with 10-month-old baby on coup charges

Nazlı Mert is seen with her baby while being transferred to the prison late on Monday.

Nazlı Mert, a Turkish woman with a 10-month old baby, has been put behind bars over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Mert was initially detained by police on June 3, 2017, days after she gave birth to a baby at Lokman Hekim Hospital in Ankara’s Etlik neighborhood. She was released pending trial while her husband was jailed over his alleged ties to the movement.

On April 23, 2018, a Kırşehir court this time ruled for the arrest of the woman on coup charges, putting her and her 10-month-old baby in pretrial detention in Kırşehir province.

Mert’s baby was reportedly delivered in a caesarean procedure. Her initial detention right after giving birth was not the first such detention of a woman immediately after delivery.

In June 2017, Turkish police detained Elif Aslaner, a religious education teacher who gave birth to a baby at a private hospital in Bursa.

In May, Aysun Aydemir, an English teacher who gave birth to a baby in a caesarean procedure, was detained at the hospital and subsequently arrested by a court and put in pretrial detention with a 3-day-old baby in Zonguldak province as part of an investigation into the Gülen group.

In late January, Fadime Günay, who gave birth to a baby, was detained by police in Antalya’s Alanya Başkent Hospital.

In early January, Ş.A., a former private school teacher and mother of a week-old premature infant, was taken into police custody over links to the group while she was on her way to the hospital to feed the baby.

A day after Ş.A. was taken into police custody, another mother known as Meryem gave birth to twins by C-section in a hospital in Konya and was detained by police despite hospital reports that she should not travel and was taken to Aksaray from Konya in a police car.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 20, 2018 said 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, calling on Turkey to end the practice of detaining pregnant and postpartum women.

In a 28-page report issued in March the OHCHR noted the following points concerning the detention, arrest and torture of pregnant women and children in Turkey in 2017: “OHCHR estimates that approximately 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, including about 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth.

“OHCHR documented at least 50 cases of women who had given birth just prior to or just after being detained or arrested. OHCHR received a report concerning a woman who was sexually assaulted by a police officer during arrest. Moreover, NGOs brought to the attention of OHCHR at least six cases of women who were detained while they were visiting their spouses in prison. They were either detained together with their children or violently separated from them.”

Since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 more than 17,000 women accompanied by 706 babies have been jailed over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The women are accused of providing scholarships, arranging sales, depositing money in private lender Bank Asya, sending their children to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, subscribing to the Zaman or Bugün newspapers or using the ByLock smart phone messaging application.

Women who go to hospitals seeking birth control or to give birth are clear targets for police officers. However, according to the Turkish Penal Code’s Article 5275, “the sentence of imprisonment is set aside/postponed for women who are pregnant or who are within six months of conception.” Experts say that according to the law, the arrest of pregnant women and those who have infants younger than six months of age is not possible at all. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) also takes born or unborn child under protection.

Women who have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown have been subjected to torture and ill treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents, a report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear released in April 2017 by SCF revealed.

In several cases, women were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of a baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

 

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