Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairwoman Gülizar Biçer Karaca wasn’t allowed to visit critically ill Ayşe Özdoğan, 34, who was sent to prison last week on a terrorism conviction despite her end-stage cancer, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported on Monday, citing the Kronos news website.
According to Özdoğan’s sister, Emine Erdem, Karaca wanted to visit Özdoğan in Denizli Prison on Friday, but the prison administration denied her request.
Özdoğan, a former teacher, was handed down a nine-year, four-month prison sentence for alleged links to the Gülen movement. An appeals court on June 11 upheld her sentence despite severe health problems and a hospital report saying she was not fit to stay in prison.
Özdoğan and her husband were detained on April 8, 2019 for alleged links to the movement, but she was released due to her son’s heart condition. Her husband was sent to prison in southern Antalya province.
Özdoğan developed cancer seven months later and underwent an operation on November 12, 2019. However, she was arrested shortly thereafter, convicted and sentenced to nine years, six months in prison.
Özdoğan’s arrest sparked outrage, and thanks to an online campaign started by Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, she was released pending appeal on December 27, 2019.
It was already too late for her second surgery, however, as the cancer had spread. Özdoğan’s teeth, palate, zygomatic bone and lymph nodes were removed in an emergency operation. Özdoğan lost her ability to see and hear after the operation due to the trauma her facial bones suffered.
Özdoğan previously said she could no longer eat solid foods and suffered from a chronic infection in her sinuses, where a tumor was removed. She added that she could not chew or swallow because of the cancer.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.