Woman falsely convicted of terrorism says her imprisonment has taken a toll on children’s mental health

Nesibe Nur Akkaş with her children during a prison visit

Nesibe Nur Akkaş (41), a homemaker and mother of three imprisoned on bogus terrorism charges, said her imprisonment has scattered her children around the country, depriving them of a stable family life and taking a toll on their mental health, in a letter to human rights defender and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

In her letter Akkaş says her three children move between different relatives who take care of them in the absence of their parents. Akkaş said her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia, farm-worker father and psychologically ill sister in law are left to care for her children. She adds that this has taken a mental toll on both her children and her relatives.

Akkaş was arrested two years ago and sentenced to seven years, six months in prison on charges of membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has long resided in the US. Her husband, Mehmet Akkaş (44), a former teacher, was arrested four years ago on the same charge and sentenced to eight years, one month in prison. The couple’s sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The Turkish government accuses the movement of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and over 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.” The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.

In a previous letter she had sent to Gergerlioğlu in February, Akkaş had said her children suffered from psychological problems that were aggravated by their parents’ arrest. “My daughter is 12 years old and has gained an incredible amount of weight due to the trauma her father’s arrest inflicted on her. She attempted suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants.”

Akkaş also said her 16-year-old son was suffering from manic-depressive disorder and was staying with his schizophrenic grandmother. “My son needs constant attention. He needs to be taken to the doctor regularly, but he cannot even attend his classes now because no one can take care of his needs.”

Akkaş said the unity of their family was destroyed by their arrests and that she wanted this travesty of justice to be corrected for the well-being of her family.

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