Turkish businessman who spent more than a year in jail over Gülen links dies of cancer

Turkish businessman Ali Hocaoğlu, who spent more than a year in pre-trial detention over alleged links to the Gülen movement, has reportedly died of gastric cancer, according to Turkish media on Monday.

The İzmir businessman was jailed as part of an investigation into Gülen followers in April 2017. Nearly a month ago the state of his health had deteriorated to such a point that he was taken from İzmir’s Şakran Prison to a hospital where he stayed prior to his demise. Hocaoğlu reportedly spent his final week in the intensive care unit.

According to reports in the Turkish media, Hocaoğlu’s father, İsmail Hocaoğlu, is also in pre-trial detention in Şakran Prison on similar charges. The father recently underwent heart surgery.

Last month, Halime Gülsu, a teacher who was arrested on Feb. 20, 2018 for alleged links to the Gülen movement, died in prison due to deprivation of the medication she was supposed to take for lupus erythematosus.

Meanwhile, Savaş Uyar, a 41-year-old public accountant in Turkey’s Giresun province, has lost 41 kilograms during months-long pre-trial detention as he is suffering from a number of medical problems, according to several sources.

The torture, ill-treatment, abusive, inhuman and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkey’s detention centers and prisons have become the norm rather than the exception under increased nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry in the country in the wake of the coup attempt in July 2016.

According to Turkey Purge, 28 individuals, among whom are police officers, prosecutors and teachers, had been found dead as of April 2017 in Turkish prisons since the failed coup attempt in 2016, causing serious concerns about the fate of thousands of civilians who have been kept in jail in poor conditions across the country.

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 113 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format.

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. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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