Woman acquitted by Turkish court of alleged Gülen link charges after losing baby, job

Former court clerk E.U., who lost her baby because of the heavy stress she experienced in detention after she was taken into custody for alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging app, has been acquitted by a Turkish court of all charges two years after the case was filed.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Thirty-two-year-old E.U., who used to work as court clerk at the Trabzon Courthouse, was detained by police in August 2016 for alleged use of ByLock and for alleged membership in the Gülen movement. According to a report by online news outlet TR724, E.U., who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, had to be taken to a hospital because of the severe stress and panic she experienced in police custody. After a medical examination at the hospital, doctors said her baby had an irregular heartbeat.

Although E.U.’s family asked the police officers to let her to stay in the hospital, the officers reportedly refused and took her back to the detention center. On the fourth day of her detention it was discovered that E.U.’s name was not on the ByLock list. Following her release, the young woman was immediately taken to a hospital, where doctors told her she had lost her baby.

E.U.’s tragedy did not end there. Six months later she was dismissed from the job she had worked at for for 4,5 years.

E.U. learned three days ago that she had been acquitted by a local court of all charges against her. She spoke about her feelings after she learned that she had been acquitted in an interview she gave to the Milliyet daily.

“I was taken into custody by policemen who suddenly raided my house. Nobody explained me why I was taken into custody. When I was taken to the Trabzon Police Station, I learned that I was being detained over my alleged use of ByLock. We were asked if we were using ByLock. I had heard about ByLock for the first time that day. I didn’t have even a minor connection with the organisation (the Gülen movement) in question. At least, my way of life is far from theirs. I am a graduate of a Turkish teaching department. I have taken the civil service examination (KPSS) many times but have not been able to get an appointment. As a result I started to work as court clerk thanks to my KPSS score.”

“I was very frightened, and I had experienced severe stress in police custody. I cried incessantly that night and got the flu in the middle of summer. I was told that my baby had problems with his or her heart when I was hospitalised. Despite all that, the police took me back to the detention center,” E.U. said and added, “After four days, I was released because my name was not on the ByLock list.”

“As soon as I was released I went to the hospital. The doctors told me that my baby’s heart had stopped. I had to have an abortion. My baby and I did not have any health problems before the police detention. I was detained on an assumption. They had a suspicion about me that I was using ByLock, but they weren’t sure. Because of this, just because of ByLock, which I have never used, first I lost my baby and then I lost my job,” said E.U.

“The problems did not end with this, either,” E.U. said. “Since I live in a small town, people have always approached me with prejudice. At the end of these two years I was acquitted, but during this time, I have been very weary both materially and spiritually. I have been unemployed for two years.”

“It should not be so easy to destroy people’s lives. No one has the right to do that. Despite the fact that they have all the resources in their hands, why didn’t they do the necessary research before detaining me?” she asked.

Women and mothers who have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown in Turkey 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, mothers were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of a baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many mothers were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos.

A 28-page report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in March 2018 emphasised 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.”

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.

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