Colonel suffering from heart disease denied treatment, kept in solitary confinement

Mustafa Barış AVIALAN

Mustafa Barış Avıalan, a former staff colonel sentenced to life imprisonment on coup charges, was denied treatment despite suffering from heart disease and kept in solitary confinement,, a website giving voice to soldiers purged from the military by the government and their families, reported.

In a complaint to the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, Avıalan said he had a harmless type of arrhythmia before going to prison but no other health issues. In January 2018 he had chest pain one night and later started suffering from shortness of breath. He visited the prison doctor in the infirmary and was prescribed a medicine to help him breathe more easily and a daily blood pressure check. When his symptoms persisted, he went to the infirmary and asked three times in eight days to be sent to the prison hospital. Every time the doctor denied his request and told him to wait his turn.

Avıalan was a decorated officer and led the Turkish General Staff’s project department. On the night of July 15, 2016, he received a phone call informing him of a meeting on a probable terrorist attack on Akıncı Airbase in Ankara. The caller said the chief of general staff of the time, Gen. Hulusi Akar, would also be present at the meeting. He followed the orders and went to the airbase.

Turkey experienced a controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.

According to the Turkish government, Akıncı Airbase was the command center for the failed coup and Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar was held thereafter allegedly being taken hostage by coup plotters. Everyone at the airbase that night was accused of taking part in the coup.

According to the testimony of several soldiers, including the commander of Akıncı Airbase, Brig. Gen. Hakan Evrim, and former Air Forces Commander Gen. Akın Öztürk, Akar was not a hostage at Akıncı Airbase and went there of his own volition on the night of the coup.

The abortive putsch killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing that the coup had been foiled, the Turkish government immediately started a huge purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials, which ultimately led to the summary dismissal of more than 150,000 public servants from their jobs.

Col. Avıalan was convicted on coup-related charges and was handed down 141 aggravated life sentences on June 20, 2019.

On February 6, 2018, only a day after his last visit to the doctor, Avıalan woke up at night with severe chest pain. He was sweating profusely and couldn’t breathe. He pushed the panic button and was finally taken to the prison hospital. He was told he might have had a heart attack and was transferred to a civilian hospital. He returned to the prison after the emergency visit but wasn’t allowed to make a scheduled hospital visit. The following day he was able to go to the prison hospital. He was told he had severe heart failure and was prescribed medication.

Avıalan’s visit to the civilian hospital was postponed a couple of times, but he was finally examined by a cardiologist on March 14, 2018. It took another six months for him to be able to get the necessary diagnostic tests, and finally, on September 28, 2018, the doctors said he needed a pacemaker. He had to wait a couple of more months for the implantation surgery after the prison doctor waitlisted him for his subsequent hospital visit.

He underwent the surgery at the end of 2018. Before the operation, his family requested the implantation of a better pacemaker and offered to pay for the device themselves but were refused.

Avıalan’s condition started deteriorating dramatically towards the end of 2019. He is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cirrhosis of the liver. He has cysts in his kidneys, and many of his organs are damaged due to a failure of his pancreas, all of which are a result of the failure of his heart to function properly. He currently only has 15 percent heart function.

He is still kept in solitary confinement. He has applied for a delay in the execution of his sentence for treatment, but his request was again denied last Friday.

In a letter to his family, Avıalan said he is in serious condition and suffers a lot. According to his account, his heart rate is slow, he can’t get enough oxygen and constantly feels dizzy. He also has abdominal distension and can’t eat or sleep.

Beyond his medical condition, Avıalan also complained about mistreatment in his letter. “Every day gendarmes insult and mistreat me. They do everything to make my life more difficult. Doctors don’t pay attention. God help us. … or, maybe, goodbye.”

Colonel Avıalan’s complaint to the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office

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