Former teacher Abdullah Aslan, whose repeated requests for release have been rejected, had a major epileptic seizure in a Turkish prison ward on Monday, Bold Medya reported.
This is not the first time that Aslan, imprisoned since December 2017 for alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, has suffered a seizure. Aslan has also undergone three major surgeries for a brain tumor since his incarceration. The last procedure took place in August, after which he was partially paralyzed and could not use his left arm.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish 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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Aslan had previously said at court hearings that he was requesting his release since he could not receive adequate treatment in prison, but his statements were not taken into consideration by the judges.
Aslan’s brother said during his last visit to the prison Aslan was in a wheelchair and was not able to speak properly due to his deteriorating health. Aslan’s fellow inmates help him with his personal needs, Aslan’s brother said.
Aslan, who is completely paralyzed and can no longer speak after the seizure on Monday, is currently being treated at Afyonkarahisar State Hospital.
“After the last operation, his doctor said he had to receive chemotherapy, but the prison administration said there was no need for further treatment and decided that only physical therapy was enough and that he could stay in prison. How can a paralyzed person stay in prison?” Aslan’s brother asked Bold Medya.
Aslan, who was sentenced to 11 years, three months in prison and was told by his doctors that he would not be able to recover under prison conditions, is being held in Bolvadin Prison in the central western province of Afyonkarahisar.
Critics have slammed Turkish authorities for refusing to release critically ill prisoners. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a physician himself, said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are more than 1,605 sick prisoners in Turkish prisons, approximately 604 of whom are critically ill. 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 release 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.
Since April 2020 four seriously ill prisoners over the age of 70 have died in penal institutions; five inmates suffering from cancer died shortly after they were released; and 16 died of chronic illnesses while imprisoned.