‘I’ll leave this place in a coffin,’ ailing prisoner in Turkey says

Photo: Pixabay

Muharrem Cankılıç, a 63-year-old ailing man incarcerated in a northwest Turkey prison, has reportedly told his visitors that he expects to die behind bars due to the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge the severity of his medical problems, the Bold Medya news website reported over the weekend.

Suffering from cardiac disease and high blood pressure, Cankılıç has undergone two surgeries while imprisoned and is being taken to the prison infirmary almost every day.

“I’ll leave this place in a coffin,” he reportedly told visitors.

Imprisoned in August 2022, he has had two heart attacks while in prison after which doctors wanted to perform a coronary artery bypass. However, he refused due to unfavorable prison conditions. As a result, the doctors placed four stents on his heart, the report said.

During both instances of hospitalization, Cankılıç was forced to receive treatment in handcuffs and prevented from accepting assistance from relatives.

Opposition MP and leading human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu brought up Cankılıç’s situation during a press briefing at parliament.

“He suffers from shortness of breath to the point that he might have a heart attack any day,” Gergerlioğlu said. “Yet, he is still kept in prison.”

An İstanbul-based businessman, Cankılıç is serving a prison sentence of more than seven years on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group targeted by the Turkish government.

He was convicted of Gülen links based on a letter denouncing him for donating to fundraisers affiliated with the movement, his account at Bank Asya, a Gülen-linked financial institution shut down by the government, and his involvement in the management of a student dormitory operated by the movement.

Also presented as evidence in his court file was a tweet in which he expressed support for Akın İpek, a businessman whose assets were famously confiscated by the Turkish government over his ties to the Gülen movement.

“My father’s blood pressure is constantly high due to his depression,” said Vildan Çekiç, Cankılıç’s daughter, who spoke to Bold Medya.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations in 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 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.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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