Turkish woman with COVID-19 made to appear before judge in hazmat suit

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Turkish authorities made a woman who tested positive for COVID-19 appear before a judge in Bursa province in a hazmat suit on October 14, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Bold Medya.

Serpil Can, 33, was detained on October 13 in Bursa and underwent a routine health check at a local hospital. A test revealed Can had contracted the virus but nevertheless she was made to appear in court and was sent for pretrial detention in Bursa Yenişehir Prison. The prison refused to accept Can because she was sick and sent her back to the hospital.

Can is now in the prisoners ward of a public hospital.

According to her family Can suffers from diabetes and had complaints of flu-like symptoms a few days before her detention.

The mother of two young children, Can has been charged with links to the Gülen movement and was accused of using the ByLock messaging application.

Turkey considers ByLock, once widely available online, a secret tool of communication among supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch, leading to the arrest of thousands who were using it.

She was also accused of depositing money in the now-closed, Gülen-linked Bank Asya and working for a Gülen-affiliated institution.

Can’s husband, Mehmet Can, was also arrested on similar charges in 2016 and was sentenced to eight years, one month in prison. Mehmet Can is currently under house arrest.

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 the coup attempt that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The rapidly spreading COVID-19 has presented greater concerns in Turkey’s prisons, which were already notorious for human rights abuses, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions before the pandemic.

The purge of thousands of dissidents in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016 has filled Turkey’s prisons, which today are overcrowded with tens of thousands of political prisoners.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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