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Parents of 3-month-old infant arrested on Gülen conviction, sparking public outrage

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The parents of a 3-month-old infant were arrested and sent to prison on Saturday night to serve sentences on conviction of Gülen links, leaving their baby to the care of relatives, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Kronos news website.

Sümeyye and Zarif Tercanoğlu were arrested by Turkish authorities as they were on their way to Greece, attempting to escape incarceration. Their 3-month old baby, who was accompanying them on the journey, was handed over to an aunt.

A video showing the mother parting with her baby sparked outrage among social media users, who demanded Turkish authorities reunite the breastfeeding infant with his mother.

Tutsak Bebekler (Imprisoned Babies), a social media account dedicated to babies accompanying their mothers to prison, said it was outrageous for a breastfeeding baby to be separated from his mother.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) and a prominent human rights activist, said nearly every day a pregnant woman or a mother with a baby goes to prison. He called on authorities to release Sümeyye Tercanoğlu.

Sümeyye Tercanoğlu, a homemaker, was sentenced to six years, three months in prison, while her husband was handed down a seven-year, six-month sentence. Zarif Tercanoğlu worked in a now-closed school affiliated linked to the Gülen movement.

They were accused of using ByLock, a smartphone application once widely available online and considered by the government to be a tool of secret communication among supporters of the movement since a failed coup attempt in 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

In a landmark decision on September 26, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Turkish courts’ conviction on terrorism charges of a teacher over activities such as the use of ByLock was unlawful.

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 an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Thousands of post-coup crackdown victims had to leave the country illegally because the government had revoked their passports.

The people who wanted to flee the country to avoid the crackdown took dangerous journeys across the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Some were arrested by Turkish security forces; some were pushed back to Turkey by Greek security; and others perished on their way to Greece.

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