Purge victim dies of heart attack in Turkish prison

Muzaffer Özcengiz, a teacher who was dismissed from his job and jailed after a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, died on Sunday at a prison in Çorum province.

Özcengiz had reportedly been held in a cell by himself, rather than in a ward with other inmates, for the last 14 months.

Özcengiz’s relatives said he suffered from hypertension and diabetes.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and deputy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), tweeted that a medical report for Özcengiz dated April 10 was so alarming that he should have stayed in the hospital instead of being returned to prison.

Özcengiz was sentenced to 12 years, six months in prison due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement. Following the coup attempt in 2016, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.

There have been many cases of people who died in jail since 2016, some suspiciously, because they were denied crucial treatment or subjected to maltreatment or acts of torture.

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 practiced. In a majority of cases authorities ruled them as 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 126 cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in a searchable database format.

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