Prof. Dr. Sabri Çolak (69), a retired Turkish academic who was jailed over alleged links to the Gülen movement, died in prison on Friday morning.
According to a report by online news outlet TR724, Çolak, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, died in a high-security prison in Van province from a heart attack. The report said it was known that the professor suffered from heart problems.
Çolak’s body will be returned to his family after an autopsy. The funeral ceremony for Çolak will be held in the Pasinler district of Erzurum province.
TR724 wrote that Prof. Dr. Çolak was detained over alleged links to the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court had arrested Çolak with an interview in a documentary broadcast on Irmak TV and newspapers with photographs of US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen presented as evidence of alleged membership in a “terror organization.”
The same court had also ruled for the continuation of his imprisonment. Çolak was held in prison for over two years.
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 120 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.