Turkish man jailed over alleged Gülen links dies as result of poor medical care in prison

Mehmet Özbir, 41, on Tuesday died of cancer that developed when he was in pretrial detention over Gülen links and which caused his health to deteriorate significantly due to a lack of medical care in prison, the tr724 news website reported.

Özbir was arrested in August 2016 as part of a crackdown on the Gülen movement after a controversial coup attempt in 2016 and was jailed for more than 16 months in Manisa on terrorism charges.

He was diagnosed with cancer while in prison but reportedly did not receive proper treatment, which eventually led to the amputation of his arm. As his situation later worsened, a court ordered his release pending trial.

After getting out of jail in December, Özbir started a course of chemotherapy, but his cancer reappeared and he was hospitalized in May.

The father of three, Özbir spent his final days in the hospital in Manisa province.

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

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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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