Imprisoned former teacher denied proper treatment while illness progresses in prison

Former teacher imprisoned on trumped up terrorism charges, who has been suffering from Hepatitis B was denied proper treatment by prison authorities and his illness has progressed considerably, Bold Medya reported.

Fethi Kazancı, 38, has been suffering from Hepatitis B for 14 years, which was under control thanks to the regular treatment he had been receiving. His illness flared up after his arrest because he was denied proper medication in prison and was not able to see a doctor for the past nine months. According to Bold Medya, Kazancı complained of bodily aches and is treated only with painkillers.

According to his wife, Atife Kazancı, he was at risk of cirrhosis and needs close medical attention. “After his arrest, my husband’s treatment was altered, he could not go to the doctor, he did not receive medication, and his medical tests were not carried out.”

She added that her husband’s illness was worsened by prison conditions. “The prisons are overcrowded so he has to sleep on the floor, and he is given canned food which has no nutritional value”.

Atife Kazancı claimed that her husband did not want to go to the hospital any longer because it entailed him staying in a quarantine cell for at least 14 days. “My husband said he did not have the strength to endure the conditions of a solitary cell and does not dare go to the hospital.”

Patient care in prisons has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmates who have been taken to the hospital are obligated to stay in a solitary quarantine cell for two weeks upon return. Recent post-mortem photos of an inmate, Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu, a former police chief who died under suspicious circumstances in a quarantine cell show that these rooms are damp, filthy, and heavily neglected.

Kazancı’s health progressively declined in prison. He was taken to the hospital for a liver biopsy in 2018, but the operation was not carried out because of liability issues. In a letter to his wife, he claimed that the gendarme commander, who was with Kazancı did not allow for a general anesthetic because he did not want to be “stuck in the hospital” for a long time.

The doctor then applied local anesthetic, but when he penetrated the liver with a needle, Kazancı passed out. He then claimed that the doctor decided not to go through with the biopsy because there was a complication.

Kazancı claimed that he was not monitored after the complication, and he did not receive medication or even an IV line.

According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are about 1,605 sick prisoners in Turkish prisons, 604 of whom are critically ill. These numbers are rapidly increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic has been hitting overcrowded prisons the hardest.

Amnesty International and 26 other rights groups and civil society organizations from Turkey and around the world released a joint statement in March calling for the release of Turkey’s political prisoners, particularly those with a high risk of complications due to COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus.

Kazancı was an elementary school teacher and was summarily dismissed for his job. He was arrested in May 2018 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement and sentenced to 13 years six months in prison. Kazancı was mainly trialed for cheating in the Public Service Entrance Examination (KPSS), a centralized test for joining public service. His high score was used as evidence against him.

Kazancı took the exam two times and scored six points less (out of 100) in the second exam. The court probed into why the second score was lesser, indicating this was evidence that he had cheated in the first round. Kazancı was subjected to a 227,000 TL (approximately $28,000) fine for unlawful profit because he had been appointed and worked as a teacher thanks to his 2010 KPSS score.

Kazancı was accused of membership in the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who preaches tolerance and interfaith dialogue between Islam and other major world religions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family 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 strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.

As part of the crackdown Erdoğan dismissed some 150,000 public servants including members of the armed forces, police officers, teachers, doctors and academics by emergency decree-laws, locking up hundreds of thousands and seizing their assets.

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