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Rights activists, opposition politicians slam arrest of disabled man convicted of Gülen links

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The recent imprisonment of an elderly man who is almost totally disabled over his conviction of links to the faith-based Gülen movement has attracted condemnation and anger from politicians and human rights activists.

Even the most basic needs of 86-year-old Mustafa Said Türk, who suffered a brain hemorrhage and became paralyzed and bedridden in 2018, were being taken care of by two professional caregivers at home before he was sent to prison.

According to his family, Türk had two brain hemorrhages in the last five years, suffered a heart attack last year and had a stent implanted in addition to receiving four insulin injections a day.

A few hours after he was sent to Manisa T Type Prison to serve his 10-year sentence on July 31, Türk was hospitalized due to poor health.

After his discharge on Aug. 10 he was taken by ambulance, accompanied by gendarmes, to Menemen R Type Prison in İzmir, which is located an hour away from the hospital, to continue serving his sentence.

Türk was sent back to jail after a team of eight doctors provided a report a day earlier suggesting he was “fit to remain in prison.”

His son Süleyman Türk told the Kronos news website on Tuesday that his father had been taken to the hospital the previous day; however, he wasn’t admitted as doctors saw no need for his hospitalization, and he was subsequently taken back to prison. Türk said the doctors are afraid of being punished if they decide to keep his father in the hospital.

“My father is in a terrible state. … Let alone the prison, it’s not possible to bring him home in his current condition. He requires serious hospital care. … Right now, my father doesn’t know what he’s experiencing; he’s suffering memory loss caused by an infection. It’s referred to as a state of delirium,” he added.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and human rights activist Sezgin Tanrıkulu spoke to ARTI TV about the critically ill inmates in Turkish prisons on Tuesday.

Tanrıkulu posted a video of the part of his speech about Türk on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying that the government is applying the law inhumanely in Türk’s case.

“Did you expect him to die in prison? What blood feud are you pursuing?” the MP said, addressing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Opposition Future Party (GP) lawmaker Sema Silkin Ün, a former assistant to Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan, also said that Türk’s imprisonment “exceeds the boundaries of reason, conscience and justice.”

Last week, Bülent Arınç, a former deputy prime minister from the ruling AKP and former parliament speaker, who is also a close friend of the Türk family, expressed on social media that subjecting elderly individuals incapable of looking after themselves to prison was “a very wrong approach.”

In the 466th week of its protest to raise awareness about the condition of sick inmates on Saturday, the Initiative for the Freedom of Sick Prisoners (Hasta Mahpuslara Özgürlük İnisiyatifi) highlighted the case of Türk.

During the event Nuray Çevirmen from the Human Rights Association (İHD) addressed the press and said the medical decision indicating Türk’s suitability to stay in prison was not acceptable.

She further noted that the committee’s statements about Türk’s inability to maintain his life in prison conditions due to his ongoing illness and disability, along with the assertion that there is no need to delay the execution of his sentence, are inconsistent.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 and labels it as a terrorist organization. Gülen and his movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch and any terrorist activity.

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