Nesibe Baransu, the wife of Turkish journalist Mehmet Baransu, who has been behind bars for more than five years, on Tuesday told the Jailed Journos online platform about the difficulties she faced in the years following her husband’s arrest due to being considered “legally disabled” — a term indicating that she is unable to exercise her rights as a citizen — by the Turkish government.
Baransu said she was unable to pay six months of taxes when her house was seized by the government because the workers at the tax office considered her legally disabled. She added that her being considered legally disabled at different government offices because of her husband’s arrest in 2015 had continued for four years.
“The officers [at the tax office] told me they saw a red warning on the computer screen, sent from the Justice Ministry, when they put my ID number in the system, telling them those officers who allow me to conduct an official procedure there would face legal action,” she said.
“When I asked them, ‘Is there a criminal investigation into me?’ they replied that there wasn’t. I asked, ‘Then, why am I legally disabled?’ and they said that it was because of my husband’s situation. But is there any reason for it? No, there isn’t,” Baransu said.
“People who have family members behind bars feel as if they are also jailed in a semi-open prison. I’m one of those who feel this way because of the fact that I can’t work even though I have a profession,” Baransu told Jailed Journos.
She further said that she was unable to get health insurance when she was experiencing health problems.
“I can’t understand why I can’t benefit from a service provided by the government when I am as much a citizen of this country as anybody else. I’m not under arrest, I haven’t been convicted of any crime and there isn’t any investigation or charges against me,” the journalist’s wife said.
Criticizing the lack of judicial independence in Turkey, Baransu said the court on several occasions rejected evidence that might help to prove her husband’s innocence, also refusing to hear to her statement about irregularities in her husband’s indictment.
Mehmet Baransu, who was arrested in March 2015, was sentenced to 19 years, six months on four counts over his 2013 reporting for the Taraf daily on alleged customs fraud involving the import of genetically modified rice by a pro-government businessman, which he claimed was hushed up by then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In November, he was also sentenced to 17 years, one month on four other charges due to his report in 2013 on a National Security Council (MGK) decision concerning government plans to eliminate the faith-based Gülen movement, which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Ankara also accuses the movement, inspired by the teachings of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a 2016 coup attempt despite both Gülen and his supporters’ strong denial of any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activities.