Woman who gave birth in jail imprisoned again over Gülen links

Serap Erdem, who was arrested when she was pregnant in September 2016 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, was on Tuesday sent to prison again in Turkey’s western province of Edirne, Bold Medya reported.

Erdem, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for managing a student dormitory in İzmir that the government subsequently shuttered over its alleged links to the Gülen movement, was six months pregnant when she was arrested in 2016. Erdem remained in prison until her son was 10 months old but was released under a law governing the incarceration of women who are pregnant of have just given birth.

According to the Turkish Penal Code’s Article 5275, “the execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.”

The court ruled on Tuesday that Erdem must serve the remainder of her sentence since her son is now 5 years old.

Erdem had previously referred to the mistreatment she was subjected to and talked about the poor conditions for babies and children in prison. She said she was not allowed to see anyone or have company when she went to the hospital to give birth, that she was sent back to prison the day after delivery and that she was kept in a cell without heating in the winter.

When Erdem was released, her husband, Sadık Erdem, was given five years, six months in prison on the same charge. He was freed in September after serving his sentence.

The Erdem couple’s son will live with his father.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children have dramatically increased in Turkey in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.

As of December 2021 there were 548 children in prison with their mothers. Human rights advocates have said children accompany their mothers in prison at very young ages, which are often critical periods in their mental and physical development. However, children are not provided basic needs such as crayons or toys. Some cells are not provided with a carpet for crawling babies, and inmates make makeshift rugs out of blankets. Many children do not have their own beds and share their mothers’ food.

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