Documentary tells story of businessman who died from cancer after belated release from prison

A documentary telling the story of businessman Medeni Arifoğlu, who succumbed to cancer after he was belatedly released from prison despite his deteriorating health, premiered on YouTube on January 25, the second anniversary of his passing.

Titled “The Brave Son of Bingöl: Medeni Arifoğlu,” the documentary reveals how he was kept in prison despite serious health problems.

According to the documentary, Arifoğlu was a well-known and respected businessman in Turkey’s eastern Bingöl province, a pioneer of charity activities before a government crackdown on the Gülen movement began.

He was arrested due to alleged links to the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a coup attempt in June 2016, and his assets were seized. The authorities insisted on keeping him in prison despite the fact that he had a liver transplant. His appendix burst in prison, and he developed cancer during that time. Arifoğlu was released in March 2019 and died in January 2020.

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 following the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on November 22.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized the authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return.

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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