Judge Gökçe dies in Turkish prison where he was held over alleged links to Gülen movement

Judge Teoman Gökçe, a former member of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) who was jailed following a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 died in Sincan Prison in Ankara on Monday.

The Turkish media reported that Gökçe died of a heart attack.

Gökçe was arrested and jailed as part of a massive post-coup witch hunt carried out by the Turkish government led by autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Gökçe reportedly experienced a heart attack on Monday evening. He was unable to be saved despite emergency medical intervention. Gökçe’s body was sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine for an autopsy.

According to a report by the Sözcü daily, Gökçe returned to his ward after engaging in some sports activities. After a while he suffered a heart attack and could not be saved despite the intervention of the the health team that was called by his cellmate, Judge Abdullah Tufan Ataman, who was a former member of the Court of Cassation.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in jails and detention centers, where torture and ill-treatment are being practiced. In the majority of cases, authorities concluded they were suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 110 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format.

The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed on early August 2017.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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