Purge victim dies of cancer after belated release from prison

Hüseyin Geçmek (Photo: TR724)

Hüseyin Geçmek, a construction technician previously imprisoned on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, died on Friday of pancreatic cancer, which had begun and spread during his incarceration, the Kronos news website reported.

Geçmek was released in January 2023, in line with a report by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), which came after his cancer had already advanced to end-stage, the report said.

He was arrested after a failed military coup in July 2016 and was sentenced to more than six years in prison over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In recent years a number of sick prisoners in Turkey have died shortly after their belated release.

The agency consulted for its medical expertise in the cases of prisoners suffering from health problems, the ATK frequently comes under criticism for its failure to recommend release in a timely manner.

In some cases, reports issued by the agency even found inmates with severe disabilities or those unable to take care of themselves “fit to remain in prison.”

These controversial reports often concerned political prisoners, such as those jailed on account of Gülen links or involvement in the Kurdish political movement.

Some human rights defenders have accused the ATK of having lost all independence from the ruling party and having become a tool of persecution.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the 2013 corruption investigations, 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 the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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