Turkish mother seeking justice for cadet son arrested on coup charges

A Turkish court has ordered the arrest of Melek Çetinkaya, whose son was sentenced to life in prison over charges of involvement with the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, to await trial on terrorist propaganda charges, news website T24 reported on Friday.

Çetinkaya had been detained on Thursday, over comments made on the pro-government Akit TV, according to her daughter.

“My mother was detained with allegations of praising a criminal,” Rüveyda Çetinkaya said in a tweet. “The police searched our home to collect all digital information.”

The program’s host Fatin Dağıstanlı pushed Çetinkaya to speak on FETÖ, the name Turkey uses for the followers of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who is accused of having masterminded the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

“Because I do not know Fethullah Gülen, I cannot say that he is a terrorist,” Çetinkaya said. “But I had neighbours and friends from his congregation, and I thought they were clean people. I do not think those people could be terrorists.”

Çetinkaya referred to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments on FETÖ, that there were three tiers of members – the devout, the merchants, the traitors –and added, “I believe that because we did not know the traitor level, I cannot say they are terrorists.”

Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor is charging Çetinkaya with terrorist propaganda over her comments.

“There is a plot in motion here,” Çetinkaya’s lawyer Özge Kartal told Deutsche Welle Turkish. “Akit TV is in on this plot. Çetinkaya was there to defend her son. There is no legal benefit to her arrest, which is entirely unlawful in itself.”

Çetinkaya was on the show to advocate for her son, Furkan Çetinkaya, who was arrested last year when he was 19 over charges of involvement with the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

Furkan Çetinkaya was a student at the Harbiye Military Academy when the coup attempt happened. A total of 355 cadets, 259 studying for the air force, 26 to become land force officers, and 70 from the land forces academy, were sentenced to life in prison over their presence during the events. According to Melek Çetinkaya's interviews to television channels, cadets were summoned to Istanbul Bosphorus Bridge on the evening of the coup and were taken on superiors' order.

The appeals process is underway. Lawyer to several students, Kemal Uçar, said the execution of the sentences would start after they are approved at the higher court, but the families still have options at courts above that. “But we believe the Court of Cessation will reconsider the files and release the children. It could acquit them altogether, or at least push for aiding and not attempting a coup, opening a path for their release.”

Melek Çetinkaya has been protesting in front of the AKP headquarters for years for the fair trial of her son and all other cadets under arrest, and calls for investigations on the political components of the coup attempt. “If (the government) doesn’t know who the political branch were, how would our children?” she asked during her protests.