Former officer succumbs to cancer shortly after release from prison

Ercan Dağhan, a former 2nd lieutenant who was diagnosed with cancer while in pre-trial detention, died today after nearly four years of battling the disease, Bold Medya reported.

Dağhan’s father, Muharrem Dağhan, announced from his Twitter account that his son passed away in the early hours of Monday. Dağhan was diagnosed with lymphoma in October 2016 shortly after he was arrested on coup charges. He was released pending trial on November 5, 2020 due to his illness, but the cancer had already progressed considerably.

According to his family he was handcuffed to his bed during his treatment in prison, and three gendarmes stood guard in his room at all times, making it impossible for Dağhan to be treated in a sterile environment. The doctors had said that sanitary conditions were very important in his case because his immune system was compromised. He was also refused the right to have a family member serve as his hospital companion despite a doctor’s permission.

In addition to these problems, Dağhan contracted COVID-19 and suffered from food poisoning in prison.

Dağhan was arrested after a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that according to many was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.

Dağhan was in training at Akıncı Airbase, which was the command center of the failed coup according to the Turkish government. He said in court his wing commander gathered them late in the afternoon of July 15 and said there would be a large counterterrorism operation that night. But according to his testimony, he did not take part in any operations. He was arrested in the morning after the abortive putsch as he was about to leave the airbase and faced aggravated life imprisonment on coup charges.

On July 15 then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was allegedly held at Akıncı Airbase after 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 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 coup attempt killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing that the coup had been suppressed, the Turkish government immediately launched a huge purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials, which ultimately led to the summary dismissal of more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.

According to a spokesperson for the Turkish Ministry of Defense, a total of 20,610 military personnel have been dismissed from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) since the abortive putsch.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist and a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had said Dağhan’s continued imprisonment was a legal atrocity. “A cancer patient is being kept in prison although there is no conviction,” he said.

Gergerlioğlu had previously depicted the deaths of critically ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of murder committed by the state.

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