Mehmet Şükrü Eken (53), a former Turkish brigadier general, died in prison on April 19th due to COVID-19, the Sözcü daily reported.
Eken was arrested after a July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and had been held in Bafra prison since then. In 2018, he was sentenced to life in prison over links to the Gülen movement and for “seeking to overthrow the government.”
He was reportedly taken into an intensive care on March 24 due to severe complications from COVID-19.
Eken’s body was sent to Trabzon Institution of Forensic Medicine for an autopsy. His body will reportedly be taken to his hometown Çankırı for a funeral.
The rapidly spreading disease has presented greater concerns in Turkey’s prisons, which were already notorious for human rights abuses, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions before the pandemic. The death of those political prisoners revealed once more how the Turkish government puts their health in immediate danger.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
In the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement. The government accuses the movement of masterminding the coup, while the movement denies any involvement.
Some 500,000 people have been investigated, and nearly 97,000 including academics, judges, doctors, teachers, lawyers, students, policemen and others have been put in pretrial detention since the coup attempt.