82-year-old philanthropist with Alzheimer’s condemned to die in prison

The daughter of 82-year-old Yusuf Bekmezci, a businessman and philanthropist who was jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement, said her ailing father had been condemned to die in prison, Bold Medya reported.

Bekmezci suffers from Alzheimer’s and cannot take care of himself, according to his daughter Şeyma Bekmezci. He also has high blood pressure, sleep apnea, prostate cancer and partial deafness. Despite his serious health problems and advanced age, Bekmezci is standing trial on charges of terrorism, with the prosecutor demanding a sentence of life in prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Turkish Muslim 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 an abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

According to Şeyma Bekmezci, her father can barely understand the court proceedings due to his advanced Alzheimer’s and can’t defend himself. The lack of proper health care in prison has caused his mental state to deteriorate. “He completely forgets himself in court and is in a vulnerable position,” she said.

Şeyma Bekmezci said a hospital could easily issue a health report saying her father was not fit to be in prison, but the judge did not request one. “If the judge says there is no need for a report, then he is not taken to the hospital,” she added.

Şeyma Bekmezci said the most difficult part of this ordeal was to see her father ‘s lack of awareness. She said he did not know why he was in prison but was in constant pain because of his various health problems.

“They should at least grant him house arrest so we can take of him. He is slowly dying in there,” she said.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing party with majority-Kurdish support, criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners until it is too late for them to receive effective treatment.

“They refuse to release the prisoners until it comes to the point of no return. They only release the prisoners when they realize they will die soon, not wanting them to die in prison,” he said.

He claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

According to a statement from the Turkish interior minister, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup.

 

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