The family of visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat, who has been jailed over alleged ties to the Gülen movement since July 10, 2017, announced on Saturday that they could not find Arat in his ward in Tarsus Prison and that they have not been given any information about his whereabouts.
Arat was sentenced on Feb. 22, 2017 to six years, three months in prison on charges of membership in the Gülen movement while also getting 10 months, 15 days for allegedly promoting a “terrorist” organization.
He was put behind bars after an upper court upheld one of his convictions, on July 10, 2017. Arat, who is 90 percent visually disabled, had stated that he was first sent to Tarsus Prison and later transferred to the Mersin E-type Closed Prison.
His family members tweeted on Saturday that Arat wanted to be sent to Ankara. Although Arat reportedly told his family during their last phone call to him that “I saw the director. He told me that If I do not want, They will not send me anywhere,” he could not be reached on Saturday. His family members have stated that they are worried about Arat’s health and wellbeing.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF shows that 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Feb. 22, 2018. Of those in prison, 205 are in pretrial detention, while only 35 have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government has also closed down more than 180 media outlets since a coup attempt in July 2016 for which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blame 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 other civil servants since July 15, 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On Dec. 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”
(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])