The daughter of a former official at Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) who was last year handed down a lengthy prison sentence due to his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement has said her father has been held in solitary confinement for 55 months because he is considered a “dangerous inmate,” the Medyascope news website reported.
Dilara Yılmaz, the daughter and lawyer of Enver Altaylı, said the prison conditions endured by her father are getting worse. She said it is out of the question for her 78-year-old father to be dangerous or to harm others, adding that no reason was given for the solitary confinement imposed on him.
“They may keep him in solitary confinement because his views are found to be dangerous or to intimidate or punish him,” said the daughter, adding that the prison administration should explain why Altaylı is considered a “dangerous inmate” and what harm he poses to others.
“Dangerous inmates” are mainly political prisoners in Turkey’s prisons. Described by the Justice Ministry as “inmates who require special supervision,” they are held in one-person cells where the windows are covered by iron bars welded so tightly together that not even a pen can get through, allowing very little daylight. The inmates have only one hour per day to go outside, to a place that can only be described as a kind of small cell surrounded by 8-meter-high walls under two layers of barbed wire.
The inmates are prohibited from even talking to other prisoners by shouting over the walls. By attempting to do so they risk a disciplinary punishment of four weeks, which primarily involves losing their right to a 10-minute weekly phone call with their families.
Last November Altaylı was sentenced to 13 years, four months on charges of espionage and an additional 10 years on charges of terrorist organization membership due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Altaylı, who was arrested in 2017, had been on trial at the Ankara 16th High Criminal Court since January 2020 along with two other defendants, another former MİT official named Mehmet Barıner, and Seda Chamatzoglou, a travel company employee who was not under arrest. Altaylı’s son-in-law, Metin Can Yılmaz, was also tried separately and handed down a prison sentence of 12 years last November on charges of terrorist organization membership.
Altaylı’s request to share the same prison cell with Yılmaz, Dilara Yılmaz’s husband, was also rejected. They are both incarcerated at Sincan Prison in Ankara.
The daughter said although she petitioned higher courts including the Constitutional Court to end the isolation of her father, she was unable to obtain a positive result.
The indictment, drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, claims Altaylı had contact with a number of CIA officials and corresponded with them on social media about political developments in Turkey and gave them reports on the same.
Altaylı is a well-known figure in the country’s recent history who worked closely with former presidents Süleyman Demirel and Turgut Özal. He was arrested on Aug. 27, 2017. He filed numerous complaints claiming that he was tortured in police custody and was held in prison in appalling conditions tantamount to torture.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim 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 intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch.