Former general who died in prison had not been released despite medical report

Kemal Mutlum, a former brigadier general who died in prison on November 23, was not released despite a medical report from Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) dated September 12 stating that he was not fit to remain in prison, local media reported.

Mutlum, who was head of the air force’s command and control department at the time of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, was the latest inmate to die from cancer after being denied release to seek proper medical treatment despite several appeals from his lawyers and family members.

“Mutlum’s general condition is poor, and he is being intubated in the intensive care unit. It is agreed by the ATK that his monitoring and treatment should continue under hospital conditions and that Mutlum needs three months to recover outside of prison,” the ATK report said.

Despite the ATK’s recommendation to release Mutlum, his release was not approved by the relevant court.

Mutlum’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court to seek Mutlum’s release following the court decision. However, this appeal was also rejected on the grounds that Mutlum’s imprisonment could not be considered a serious threat to his life.

Mutlum had a brain tumor, and his fellow inmates on the ward helped see to his personal needs until his death. He was unable to walk and was suffering from cognitive dysfunction.

Mutlum’s funeral was held in Ankara on Friday. “My father, who had been unconscious for months, was handcuffed to the bed. That hurt me the most,” Mutlum’s daughter said during the funeral.

According to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, more than 60 critically ill inmates died in Turkish prisons between January and September 2022, which was a “world record.”

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.

Gergerlioğlu previously said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Association (İHD), the number of sick prisoners is in the thousands, more than 600 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.

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