2 chronically ill inmates contract COVID-19 from prison personnel in northwestern Turkey

Two inmates with chronic diseases have contracted COVID-19 from infected prison guards in northwestern Turkey’s Sakarya Ferizli prison, Bold Medya reported.

A few days ago it was reported that five guards had been diagnosed with the virus and had passed it on to several inmates. The virus spread quickly, and reportedly 29 men in the same ward were shortly infected.

Adem Erdoğdu, 51, who has chronic heart disease, contracted the virus, but his family was not informed.

According to the family he was supposed to call them on April 23, and when he did not they phoned the prison. They were told that he could not make the call because it was a national holiday.

However, when they called back a few days later, still not hearing from Erdoğdu, they were told he was in quarantine because two people in his cell had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Prison authorities said the family would not be able to get information on Erdoğdu’s condition until the quarantine ended.

Anxious to know what was going on, the family checked Erdoğdu’s e-government account, where it said he had been taken to the hospital as an emergency case.

Erdoğdu had undergone a heart operation in 2015, but his heart only functions at 35 percent of normal. He was arrested in March 2018 for alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Erdoğdu was fitted with a pacemaker last year but was sent back to prison after a day in intensive care.

Erdoğdu’s wife, Birsen Erdoğdu, said they were left in the dark by both the prison and hospital. “I posted a tweet about the situation, after which other families who have loved ones in the same prison panicked,” she said. “There were 29 people in the same ward, which makes it pretty crowded. After other families started calling, the prison had to make it public that there had been a COVID outbreak.”

Erdoğdu’s lawyer appealed for his immediate release, but he was told that his petition would only be considered after May 17, when Turkey will end a new lockdown.

A second person who did not want to be identified said her husband, who suffered from a blood clotting disorder, was also infected. “We demanded they give him blood thinners, and I hope they have,” she said. “My husband has a history of clotting and needs medical attention.”

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation, which excludes political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws, prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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