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Turkish court sentences former rector, vice rector to prison over Gülen links

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A  Turkish court on Thursday handed down prison sentences to a former university rector and a former vice rector on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported.

Former rector of the Diyarbakır-based Dicle University, Prof. Dr. Ayşegül Jale Saraç, and former vice rector Prof. Dr. Aytekin Sır were sentenced to six years, three months in prison each by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court for their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Former vice rectors Prof. Dr. Sabri Eyigün and Prof. Dr. Aslan Bilici, who attended the hearing via IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS), were acquitted of the same charges.

In her defense Saraç argued that there was no concrete evidence against her proving her membership in a terrorist organization.

“Those who testified against me are the people who ran against me in the rectorship election or who supported my rivals. Therefore, they may have testified due to a grudge against me,” she said.

The court, however, did not take her defense into consideration in its ruling.

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 locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt in July 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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