Imprisoned man with chronic heart disease contracts COVID-19 for second time

Adem Erdoğdu, 52, who was arrested for links to the faith-based Gülen movement despite suffering from chronic heart disease, has contracted COVID-19 for a second time in prison, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Erdoğdu’s wife, Birsen Erdoğdu, said her husband had been fitted with a pacemaker only two weeks ago. Upon his return to prison he was taken to a quarantine cell before being allowed in his normal cell. While in the quarantine cell, Erdoğdu tested positive for the virus.

Birsen Erdoğdu criticized authorities for not releasing her chronically ill husband despite the ongoing pandemic.

Erdoğdu worked for a private high school linked to the movement in northwestern Sakarya province. He was arrested in 2018 and sent to a prison in the same city. Erdoğdu was reportedly beaten by the police in front of his family when he was detained.

Erdoğdu was accused of having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time, and for using the ByLock encrypted messaging app. The app was widely available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but the government claims it was exclusively used by followers of the movement and considers it evidence of terrorist activity. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Züleyha Gülüm, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Turkish prisons were turning into scenes of massacre and that political prisoners were the most disadvantaged.

According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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