Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months for links to Gülen despite regulations

Arzu Nur Özkan, a former teacher, has been held for four months in Bünyan prison in Kayseri province for alleged links to the Gülen movement despite her six-month pregnancy, the Bold Medya news site reported.

Özkan is experiencing complications from her pregnancy and is frequently placed in quarantine cell due to her hospital visits. Quarantine cells in Turkish prisons are notorious for their poor conditions and overcrowding.

Özkan was arrested for terrorism for working in a kindergarten linked to the Gülen movement. Testimonies and an account in her name at the now closed Bank Asya were used as evidence against her. She was sentenced to six years and ten months in prison.

According to the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, even if a pregnant woman is sentenced, her sentence must be postponed. The law stipulates that “the execution of the prison sentence is postponed for women who are pregnant or who have given birth for less than a year and a half”.

Özkan’s family said she was experiencing problems related to a lack of nutrition and stress and urged the authorities to release her.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has targeted supporters of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since corruption investigations from December 17 to 25, 2013, which involved then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and her entourage.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gulenist coup and a plot against his government, Erdoğan called the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He stepped up the crackdown on the movement following an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, of which he accused Gülen of being the mastermind. Gülen and the movement firmly deny any involvement in the failed coup or any terrorist activity.

According to a report by Solidarity with Others, a non-governmental organization composed mainly of political exiles from Turkey, a total of 219 pregnant women and women with children under the age of six were arbitrarily detained or arrested because of their alleged links with the Gülen movement.

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