Opposition MP calls for release of end-stage cancer patient jailed over Gülen links

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A deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for the immediate release of Ayşe Özdoğan, a critically ill woman who suffers from a rare form of cancer and was sent to prison to serve a sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement earlier this month, local media reported.

“Stage 4 cancer patient Ayşe Özdoğan isn’t fit to be in prison. The release of Ayşe Özdoğan, about whose situation we have also applied to the Ombudsman, is also what the public expects. Özdoğan should be released,” HDP lawmaker Fatma Kurtulan, a member of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, tweeted on Friday.

Özdoğan, 34, a former teacher, was handed down a nine-year, four-month sentence for alleged links to the Gülen movement. An appeals court on June 11 upheld her sentence despite severe health problems.

In a controversial decision, the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine stated on Oct. 1 that Özdoğan was fit to remain in prison and that there was no sign of metastasis of the cancer in her body.

Özdoğan was sent to prison on Oct. 2 in the western province of Denizli after authorities refused to postpone the execution of her sentence, in a move that has drawn criticism from human rights activists, doctors, opposition politicians, journalists and social media users.

Özdoğan’s sister Emine Erdem has been campaigning on Twitter for the release of her sister.

Özdoğan’s imprisonment was also condemned by Ertuğrul Günay, a former culture and tourism minister for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

“Depriving more than a million people of their jobs and freedom on coup charges is against not only the law but also reason and mercy. No one expects mercy from the government to eliminate these injustices; they expect justice. Where there is no justice, there is no peace, no tranquility, no prosperity,” Günay said.

Sırrı Er, writer and former host at state-run TRT who was removed from his job as part of a purge carried out following a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, urged Turkey’s opposition members to react more effectively against the imprisonment of Özdoğan.

“This question must be asked to the [Justice and Development Party government by millions, [especially] the opposition; ‘Why are you doing this to a woman who suffers from stage four cancer?’ That’s shameful, sinful and immoral,” Er said.

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 Nov. 12, 2019. However, she was arrested shortly thereafter, convicted and sentenced.

When she was released pending appeal on Dec. 27, 2019, it was already too late for her second surgery, however, as the cancer had spread.

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.

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