Ersoy Karamustafa, a former teacher arrested over alleged links to the Gülen movement, died in prison on Saturday of COVID-19, less than two months before he was due to be released on parole, Bold Medya reported.
Karamustafa had been in intensive care for 20 days before he died. He was summarily dismissed from his job and arrested in August 2016. He was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison for membership in a terrorist organization and would have been eligible for parole on April 9 had he not passed away.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Karamustafa’s wife, Serpil Karamustafa, was also arrested in December 2018 for affiliation with the movement. She was sentenced to eight years, one month and remains in prison.
The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.
Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 20,610 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.