84-year-old Nusret Muğla dies after contracting COVID-19 in prison

Nusret Muğla,  an 84-year-old ailing man who was serving a sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, passed away on Sunday after contracting COVID-19 in prison, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Muğla was admitted to the hospital on Saturday after displaying symptoms of the virus. In an earlier phone call to his son, Mugla had said a new inmate appeared to be sick and also did not feel well.

Muğla was incarcerated in a prison in western Manisa province despite suffering from multiple health problems including heart and kidney disease and prostate cancer. Muğla needed frequent medical attention and was kept in a quarantine cell for long periods of time.

Inmates who need to go to the hospital are required to stay in a quarantine cell when they return to prison due to COVID-19 measures. However, these cells are notorious for their poor conditions and overcrowding.

Muğla’s death sparked outrage and sorrow among many human rights activists and opposition politicians.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu tweeted that Muğla’s death could be considered murder because he should not have been in prison in his condition.

 

Sezgin Tanrıkulu from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they had urged authorities to release Muğla several times to no avail. “I am very upset about his death. Authorities who did not release the old man in time are responsible for his death,” he said on Twitter.

Mustafa Yeneroğlu, from the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), also held authorities responsible and said his continued incarceration showed a lack of mercy.

Muğla was arrested in October 2016 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, and underwent an angiogram during his time in jail. He was released for health reasons seven months later but was subsequently sentenced to six years, three months in prison.

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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

A total of 319,587 people were detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

Muğla had previously complained the heating in his cell had not been turned on despite the cold weather and that he was not even given drinks such as tea to keep him warmer. Muğla’s son Mustafa Said Muğla said his father had to wrap himself in a blanket to keep warm.

“Inmates usually face these problems in quarantine cells as the conditions are dismal,” said Mustafa Said Muğla.

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.

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