Turkish gov’t refuses to release woman jailed for alleged Gülen links despite risk of loss of vision

Emrah Çelik with her three children.

One of the more than 17,000 women who were jailed in Turkey in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement is not being released from prison although she faces a high risk of loss of vision, according to a report by the Aktif Haber online news website on Wednesday.

The woman, Emrah Çelik, is currently jailed in İzmir’s Şakran Prison. Çelik, who was a manager at a Quran study course in Balıkesir province, was jailed in August 2016 shortly after the arrest of her husband Halil. Emrah Çelik faces charges of membership in a terror organization and aiding and abetting a terror organization.

The couple’s three sons, aged 16, 12 and three-and-a-half years, were placed under state protection until the children’s uncle and uncle’s wife moved to Balıkesir to take care of them.

Emrah Çelik takes heavy medication due to vision problems and faces the risk of losing her vision; yet, she has not been released pending trial by the court. She has already lost 86 percent of her vision.

The woman’s father reportedly died last May while she was in prison, although Emrah Çelik was not given the news out of fear that knowing about the death of her father could cause the woman’s condition to deteriorate further.

Emrah and Halil Çelik are jailed in different prisons so during open visits, which take place in every two months, the children rush from one prison to another in order to see their parents.

The woman’s fourth court hearing will take place on April 4.

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 autocratic 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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