Inmate not released despite suffering from cardiovascular disease contracts COVID-19 in prison

Former teacher Hasan Çeç, 53, who suffers from cardiovascular disease, has contracted COVID-19 in prison although his family has submitted several petitions for his release, Bold Medya reported.

Çeç had fainted in prison, upon which he was diagnosed with cardiovascular problems. He underwent several procedures in February including an angiography, three bypass surgeries and a cardiac valve change. According to the Turkish Penal Code, prison sentences can be suspended if the convict is critically ill.

His son Hasan Çeç said from his Twitter account that they just found out his father also had bronchitis. “My father is in a high-risk group for COVID-19. He was denied release from prison although other prisoners were released with the start of the pandemic,” he said.

Çeç was arrested in September 2018 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement. He was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison and his case is currently with the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In an interview with Bold Medya, Çeç’s wife Ayşe Çeç said her husband was handcuffed while recovering from the surgeries. “He was accompanied by gendarmes and a prison guard at all times, even when he went to the toilet.” She said the handcuffs caused him a lot of physical discomfort during his recovery.

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. The legislation, which excludes political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws, prompted calls from the UN and the EU for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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.

“Overcrowding and unsanitary facilities already pose a serious health threat to Turkey’s prison population of nearly 300,000 prisoners and about tens of thousands of prison staff,” the statement read. “That will only be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”

“However, we remain concerned that journalists, human rights defenders, and others imprisoned for simply exercising their rights, and others who should be released, will remain behind bars in the package of measures as currently conceived by the government.”

Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are 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 died because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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