81 inmates died in Turkish prisons in 2022: report

At least 81 prisoners in Turkey died in 2022, according to a new publication released by the Purge Museum (Tenkil Müzesi in Turkish), Bold Medya reported.

Titled “Sick Prisoners in the Purge Disaster: The Case of Mustafa Said Türk,” the report reviewed the right to life and the healthcare of prisoners from the perspective of international humanitarian law, based on UN treaties and precedents set by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The report also highlighted the individual stories of sick prisoners in Turkey who were recently kept behind bars for prolonged periods despite their well-documented illnesses.

Of the 81 prisoners who died, 36 passed away due to illness, according to the report. Four of them were above the age of 80.

Among them were Nusret Muğla, who died in prison at the age of 84, and Yusuf Bekmezci, who was 82. Both were imprisoned on charges of links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

In addition to those who died behind bars, the report also said at least six people passed away shortly after their belated release, citing data from the Human Rights Association (İHD).

The report also noted that prisoners’ access to healthcare was obstructed or impeded in at least 2,439 cases throughout the year.

According to the report, there are at least 1,517 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, 651 of whom are critically ill.

Last week local media reported the death of Cemal Tanhan, a 68-year-old man who was incarcerated despite suffering from several significant health issues including paralysis, just 29 days after his release. In April Tanhan had been found fit to remain in prison by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK).

Prominent human rights defender and forensic medicine expert Şebnem Korur Fincancı said in a statement that the treatment of sick prisoners goes beyond violations of their right to receive healthcare and should be considered within the scope of torture and ill-treatment, the Evrensel newspaper reported on Monday.

Fincancı pointed out that the ATK has been treated by authorities as the de facto ultimate decision-maker in the cases of sick prisoners, despite not having legal authority.

“The ATK operates under the Ministry of Justice, and this goes against the principle of separation of powers,” she said, highlighting doubts about the independence of the decisions made by the agency.

The Purge Museum is a civil society initiative aimed at raising awareness about the persecution of the Gülen movement in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the 2013 corruption investigations, 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 the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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