Demise of yet another purge victim in Turkey: Former police chief dies of COVID-19 in prison

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Kahraman Sezer, 44, the former chief superintendent of the national police imprisoned on terrorism-related charges due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement, died on January 30 in the southern city of İskenderun due to complications arising from COVID-19, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported citing Turkish media.

Sezer was dismissed from the Turkish National Police by a government decree in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on March 23, 2018 for “membership in a terrorist organization” and had been held in İskenderun Prison for the last four-and-a-half years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

In a tweet human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said Sezer’s wife had been unable to visit the former police chief for a year and half due to financial problems, noting the situation of purge victims.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 20,610 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also banned from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Notes were put on the social security database about dismissed public servants to deter potential employers.

In August, another former police officer, Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu, was found dead in a quarantine cell in a prison in the Black Sea city of Gümüşhane after spending nine days in quarantine due to COVID-19.

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