Turkish teacher accused of ‘praising terrorism’ starts serving sentence with her baby

Ayşe Çelik, a Turkish teacher sentenced to one year, three months in prison for allegedly “praising terrorism and a terrorist organisation” in 2016, began serving her sentence today after a court rejected her lawyer’s request to postpone execution of the sentence for 10 days.

Two female parliamentarians, Feleknas Uca from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Zeynep Altıok from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) accompanied Çelik on her way to prison.

Çelik, who was sentenced to one year, three months in prison for allegedly “praising terrorism and a terrorist organization” on a TV show broadcast in 2016 start serving out her sentence on Friday accompanied by her six-month-old baby.

Çelik was sentenced by a Turkish court  in April 2017; however, her sentence was postponed until April 20, 2018 on the grounds that she was pregnant. Çelik, who gave birth to a baby girl shortly thereafter, applied to the Constitutional Court, asking for the ruling to be overturned.

Çelik had said on a Kanal D television program hosted by famous showman Beyazit Öztürk: “Are you aware of what’s going on in the country’s east? What’s happening here is misrepresented on television. Don’t stay silent! Please show more sensitivity as human beings! See us, hear us and give us a hand! I’d like to address the teachers who have abandoned their students. How are they going to return there? How are they going to look those innocent children in the eye? What a pity! Don’t let people die. Don’t let children die. Don’t let mothers cry.”

The the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Çelik after the show for “praising terrorism and a terrorist organisation,” and the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated a separate investigation into Öztürk and Çelik on similar charges.

According to the Turkish Justice Ministry, there are 669 children in Turkish jails, 64 percent of them under the age of three. The Turkish government has detained more than 17,000 women since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Women who have been jailed in the 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.

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