An 81-year-old man who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was detained by police in the Turkish province of İzmir on Monday due to his links to the Gülen movement has been arrested on terrorism charges, according to Turkish media reports.
Yusuf Pekmezci was in hiding for three years due to a widespread crackdown launched by the Turkish government on the followers of the movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
According to a statement from the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Pekmezci was arrested on charges of being a leader of an armed terrorist organization by an İzmir court.
In his testimony Pekmezci reportedly denied the terrorism accusations, said he loves US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and cannot call him a terrorist as he has not seen him becoming involved in any terrorist activity.
Pro-government media outlets were running stories for a while targeting Pekmezci and presenting him as one of the leading figures of the movement based on interviews he gave earlier in which he talked about his love for the movement and Gülen.
In addition to Alzheimer’s, Pekmezci also suffers from high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Pekmezci, who worked as a merchant in İzmir for years, is known for his philanthropy, which included giving scholarships to students in need and opening dormitories for students.
Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 130,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 30,000 others are still in jail and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.