Another child dies without seeing his jailed father one last time

Six-year-old Mehmet Erdoğan, whose father is in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges, died Wednesday in an Ankara hospital without being able to see his father one last time.

Mehmet had undergone surgery for the removal of a cyst in his arm and died unexpectedly due to complications caused by the general anesthesia.

His father, Rasih Erdoğan, a teacher, was summarily dismissed from his job by an emergency decree in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. He has been in prison in the southeastern city of Kahramanmaraş for two-and-a-half years on fabricated terrorism charges. A public prosecutor did not allow him to visit his son before the surgery.

In the aftermath of the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and fired more than 150,000 public servants from various institutions using emergency decree-laws. The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen but included people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the attempted coup and labels it as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.

Human rights defender and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu shared the news from his Twitter account. “The child passed away a moment ago without seeing his father one last time. They didn’t give his father permission. The son of a terrorist (!) teacher died silently in a hospital in Ankara.”

Turkish judicial authorities have faced strong criticism for not allowing prisoners to visit ill family members.

On May 7 eight-year-old cancer patient Ahmet Burhan Ataç passed away without seeing his jailed father one last time. A public prosecutor did not give his father permission in enough time to visit him despite the fact that Ahmet was in intensive care for three days. Ahmet’s treatment was previously interrupted because of a travel ban imposed on his mother. The authorities allowed his mother to travel abroad with him for his treatment only after a huge social media campaign, but it was too late and Ahmet subsequently returned to Turkey.

In a similar case Selman Çalışkan, a 6-year-old boy with stage 4 brain cancer, cannot see his father, a literature teacher who is in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization”. The last time he was able to see him was in June 2019, before major surgery. According to his mother, the doctors decided to end his treatment, saying, “There’s nothing else that can be done.” The 6-year-old is about to lose one of his eyes and can’t see his father because the public prosecutor’s office refuses to give the necessary permission.

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