Elderly Kurdish couple sent to prison to serve sentence for allegedly aiding and abetting terrorism

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An elderly Kurdish couple in eastern Turkey’s Van province were sent to prison on Tuesday after a top appeals court upheld a sentence handed down to them for allegedly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

Hadi Özer, 78, and Makbule Özer, 80, were sentenced to two years, six months each in prison. Their arrest sparked outrage among the public and opposition politicians. Kemal Bülbül from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the arrests were embarrassing.

Sırrı Sakık, the former mayor of eastern Ağrı province, said the arrests were political and a death sentence for the elderly couple.

According to Dilan Kunt Ayan, the couple’s lawyer, Makbule Özer is partially disabled and unable to take care of herself. Ayan appealed for the woman to be put under house arrest, but her motion was denied by the court.

The Özer couple were first detained along with five other family members on July 24, 2018 after a police raid on their home.

The couple claimed they had been insulted and mistreated in detention. While they took Makbule Özer to the police station, officers threatened to shoot her if she lifted her head. Another woman who was detained, Şükran Yıldız, was beaten with a stick and called a prostitute. The woman allegedly passed out from the beating.

According to the other family members, their house was trashed and their belongings damaged.

Ill-treatment and torture have become widespread and systematic in Turkish detention centers and prisons. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

Human rights advocates and opposition politicians have tried to raise public awareness of mistreatment. According to recent data from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Turkish police employed unlawful tactics including mistreatment and beating while detaining 13,935 people between 2018 and 2021.

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