Doctor imprisoned on Gülen charges dies of cancer after belated release 

Ahmet Rıza Özkan, 42, a doctor imprisoned over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, died on Sunday of cancer after he was released well after the cancer had advanced, TR724 news website reported.

According to TR724, Özkan was released last year following five years of imprisonment. 

Özkan, who was dismissed by a government decree as part of purges that followed a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, was arrested in 2017. He was sentenced to nine years in prison on terrorism charges for his alleged links to the movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of “terrorist” activities.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen 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 after the abortive putsch in 2016, which he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Özkan is survived by his wife and daughter.

Opposition deputies and activists have repeatedly drawn attention to the plight of critically sick prisoners. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights defender and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

According to the most recent statistics published by Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), there are 1,517 sick inmates in prisons, 651 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.

Most recently Behçet Kaplan, 31, an inmate who suffered from stomach cancer, died in a prison in Turkey’s eastern province of Bitlis.

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