Cancer patient in pre-trial detention contracts COVID-19

Credit: Enes Erduran @enesmierduran

Erdoğan Erduran (52), a former teacher suffering from prostate cancer, has contracted COVID-19 in a prison in the southern city of Antalya where he is in pre-trial detention on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Erduran was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and was arrested pending trial in November 2019 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement. His treatment was cut short due to his arrest, and although he appealed for release, the Council of Forensic Medicine issued a report stating that he was fit to live in prison conditions.

Erduran has not yet been convicted of a crime. According to the Turkish Penal Code, even prison sentences can be suspended if the convict is critically ill.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Erduran shared a ward with nearly 30 other prisoners, although five were allegedly diagnosed with COVID-19. In an interview with Bold Medya his wife, Sıddıka Erduran, said authorities did not respond to questions concerning her husband’s health.

According to his wife Erduran said their ward was neglected by prison authorities and that his cancer treatment was delayed. “He said even their food was delivered through a small door and that they have been left to die.” She added that Erduran’s cancer had progressed in prison.

Sıddıka Erduran claimed she was not informed about her husband’s condition. “One morning a couple of health officials came to our door and told us my husband had tested positive for the coronavirus. They have not given us any more detail, although I told them he had cancer and that we were extremely worried.”

Her husband has not been taken to a hospital, according to Sıddıka Erduran, and she could not reach prison authorities. Their children are trying to make their father’s case heard on social media platforms to ensure his release.

She claimed that he had access to medication for his cancer only two months ago, with a court decision allowing him to receive injections. ‘We were worried it was too late to treat his cancer, and now this has happened.”

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and over 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.” The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.

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