Kurdish politician Burhan Karatay dies in Turkish prison

Local Kurdish politician Burhan Karatay, an ailing 67-year-old prisoner in the Giresun Type E Closed Prison, died from a heart attack on Tuesday.

The pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) reported that Karatay had been in pretrial detention for three years, 10 months during the course of his trial and had several medical issues due to his advanced age.

His son İsmail Karatay said they submitted reports recommending his release but that the appeals were rejected. İsmail Karatay added that his father called them to say he needed an angiogram five months ago, but the prison administration refused to allow it. The prisoner had hypertension and had undergone four angiograms in the past.

When the family heard that Burhan Karatay had passed away, they went to Giresun to claim the body. Karatay will be buried in his hometown of Doğu Beyazit in Ağrı province. He had reportedly been arrested several times over the years and had also served as a council member in the Dogubeyazit Municipality.

At least 58 suspicious deaths have occurred in Turkish prisons since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, said a report released by Turkey Purge, a group monitoring human rights violations in Turkey.

According to international reports, prison conditions in Turkey worsened during a state of emergency declared after the failed putsch that was terminated in July. Inmates in poor health have reported they do not receive the necessary health care in prison.

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 123 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format as of September 21, 2018.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 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 civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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