Political prisoner in need of urgent treatment waiting in quarantine cell

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Ali Öztürk, 48, who was imprisoned on trumped-up terrorism charges, has been waiting for a week to be taken to a hospital for an emergency gallbladder operation, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported citing Bold Medya.

Öztürk was taken to the hospital three times last week for gallstones, which had eventually developed an infection. According to prison procedures inmates are taken back to the prison and then transferred to a university hospital for surgery.

Accordingly, Öztürk was discharged and returned to his quarantine cell. Although he was told he needed an operation immediately, Öztürk is still waiting to be taken to a better-equipped hospital.

Öztürk, a former police officer, was arrested in August 2016 for alleged links to the Gülen movement and sentenced to seven years, five months in prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas and activism of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim cleric, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and inner circle.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Following his first hospitalization in September, Öztürk was repeatedly taken to the hospital for physical examinations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his frequent hospital visits have obliged him to spend the last five months in a quarantine cell.

Quarantine cells in Turkish prisons are notorious for their poor conditions and overcrowding.

According to Öztürk’s wife, he has lost considerable weight and has also developed diabetes.

Prison conditions have been heavily criticized by human rights associations. According to a report drafted by the Association for the Freedom of Lawyers (ÖHD), there has been serious neglect in inmates’ healthcare. The report said prisoners with chronic illnesses could not receive their usual medication and that transfers from the infirmary to hospitals were restricted due to the pandemic.

In some prisons, critically ill inmates were refused treatment in a hospital by the prison administration.

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