72-year-old man jailed over Gülen links not released despite suffering from heart failure

A 72-year-old man jailed for alleged links to the Gülen movement despite congestive heart failure has not been released from prison and is scheduled to undergo heart surgery in the next few days, Bold Medya reported.

Bekir Bayram suffers from heart failure and had his first surgery three years ago. In a telephone call to his family on Tuesday, Bayram said he was transferred to a university hospital for an operation. His son Doğan Bayram said his father’s morale was very low and that he expected to die.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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 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.

Bayram lost 40 kilos in prison and frequently fainted. His family is asking authorities to immediately release Bayram so he can recover at home.

Bayram was arrested on November 2, 2017 and sentenced to nine years, four months in prison. Secret witness testimony and two visits to the US were used as evidence against him.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return.

According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

Since April 2020, four seriously ill prisoners over the age of 70 have died in penal institutions; five inmates suffering from cancer died shortly after they were released; and 16 died of chronic illnesses while imprisoned.

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