Turkish imam, dismissed over alleged links to Gülen movement, dies suspiciously in İzmir

Imam Tugay Uslu.

Turkish imam Tugay Uslu, who was dismissed from his duty by a government decree as part of Turkish government massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement,  lost his life suspiciously in a accident that his motorcycle was rear ended by a stolen vehicle in İzmir province. The stolen car was later found abandoned.

According to a report by pro-government Doğan news agency, imam Tugay Uslu lost his life in an accident that happened in the evening of 9th December with rear end collision in Bergama district of İzmir province. The car, which was filed a report of stolen, was abandoned Sunday morning. It was reported that 2 people were detained in connection with this incident.

The suspicious accident reportedly occurred at 18:20 on Saturday in Maltepe neighbourhood on Yüzüncü Yıl Avenue in Bergama. Imam Uslu, who was married and father of two children, was injured as a result of a rear end collision, while he was going with his own motorcycle. The family, who were unaware of the accident, filed a missing person report as he didn’t return home.

On Sunday around 10:00 in the city, a person named O.E. has filed a complaint to the police by stating that his 35 VPB 33 plated car, which was parked in front of his house, was stolen. The police, who began to work, found the vehicle abandoned near by a creek on the way to Bergama-Kozak. Uslu’s dead body was found inside the creek.

The footage taken from the closest camera to the accident has showed that the vehicle hit Uslu was the same vehicle which was stolen. Uslu’s body was taken to the İzmir Forensic Medicine Institution for autopsy after the examination at the scene by the prosecutor. In connection with the death of Uslu, the vehicle owner O.E. and Y.Ç. were taken into custody. It was reported that investigations still keep going on.

About ten hours after the suspicious death of Uslu, the pro-government Sabah daily reported that Uslu was an “exorcist” and had raped a woman. Sabah, without mentioning the source of this news, preferred to mislead about the suspicious death. In the news, it is also stated that Uslu’s body was burned.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has 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 Turkish jails and detention centers where a torture and ill-treatment is being practiced. In most cases, authorities concluded these as suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

The suspicious death has also taken place beyond the prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before the detention. SCF has compiled 96 cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in a list as of December 12, 2017 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 Turkey’s 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 civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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