The wife of a former staff colonel who was convicted on coup charges said her husband’s heath had deteriorated to the point where he could barely see or move and requested his immediate release from prison.
Speaking to the Bold Medya news website, Şebnem Çay said her husband Mustafa Özcan Çay, 46, suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS). “I’m praying that my husband won’t be the next prisoner to leave prison in a coffin,” she said.
Çay was a decorated military officer who served in various national and NATO posts. In 2013, following complaints of a limp, he was diagnosed with MS. His treatments were going so well that he could even play some sports. Yet, that all changed with his arrest following an abortive coup in Turkey in July 2016.
Çay was the duty officer on the night of the coup attempt at the İstanbul-based War Academies, graduate schools training staff officers. He was detained and later convicted on coup charges by an İstanbul court.
According to Şebnem Çay, her husband did not receive proper treatment in prison and his health deteriorated. He was only taken to the hospital in 2019, three years after his arrest. Even after the hospital visit, Çay was only given medication and not physical therapy.
Currently, Çay cannot take care of his daily needs, and two inmates volunteer to feed him, change his diaper and help with other daily necessities.
Due to COVID-19 regulations, Çay is made to stay in a quarantine cell each time he goes to the hospital. However, quarantine cells are not equipped for a disabled person. Additionally, these cells are notorious for their poor conditions and overcrowding.
Despite his severe health problems, the Constitutional Court denied Çay release from prison in December 2020 saying he had access to medical care and there was no evidence showing that his staying in prison posed a serious risk of bodily or mental harm.
The failed coup killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing the coup had been suppressed, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.
A total of 24,253 military members were dismissed from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in a post-coup purge, while investigations into 1,380 members of the military are currently underway.
The purge of thousands of dissidents in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016 has filled Turkey’s prisons, which today are overcrowded with tens of thousands of political prisoners.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.