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Dentist couple faces up to 15 years in jail over Gülen links

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Dentist Ali İlker Baştan and his wife Esma Kuriş Baştan, also a dentist, face up to 15 years’ imprisonment for alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Baştan said at a hearing on Friday that photos that appeared in the Turkish media describing him as Fethullah Gülen’s dentist were doctored as he never examined the Islamic cleric.

The couple was first detained in October 2016 after an İstanbul prosecutor claimed that Zekeriya Öz and Celal Kara, two former prosecutors who are also accused of membership in the movement, took a picture from the balcony of their clinic.

In his defense, dentist Baştan said he only knew the prosecutors as his patients, emphasizing his successful career as a dentist who attracted patients to his İstanbul clinic. The jailed dentist said he only learned of Kara’s profession after allegations were made against him.

His wife is accused of depositing money in Bank Asya, which was first seized and then shut down due to its links to Gülen movement.

The couple, who are accused of paying frequent visits to the US, where Gülen lives in self-imposed exile, said they went to the US to advance their careers a decade ago but returned after not being able to extend their residency.

In a currently ongoing post-coup purge, over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of Feb. 1, 89,775 people were being held without charge, with an additional 43,885 in pre-trial detention.

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