Yet another purge victim dies in Turkish prison

Şafak Demir, one of the thousands of teachers removed from their posts by government decrees due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement and subsequently jailed, died on Tuesday from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered in prison on Saturday.

The former teacher suffered the hemorrhage at Tarsus Prison in southern Turkey from where she was taken to Adana City Hospital.

The woman, a mother of two, died at the hospital despite the doctors’ best efforts.

Şafak Demir’s husband Mehmet Demir is also jailed in Tarsus Prison over alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement. The couple’s young children are being taken care of by relatives.

Renowned human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who wrote about Şafak Demir’s ordeal on Twitter, called for the immediate release of Mehmet Demir so that he can take care of his children and help them overcome the trauma of losing their mother.

Gergerlioğlu said he was very saddened by the death of Şafak Demir.

“She experienced most of the pain experienced by the purge victims and was eventually overwhelmed by the tyrant order. It is impossible for us to forget this; justice will definitely be served,” Gergerlioğlu tweeted on Tuesday.

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 117 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 turkishminute.com)

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