Murat Can Güney, 27, a former air force cadet sentenced to life imprisonment on coup charges, was not allowed to attend his parents’ funeral after the local gendarmerie command claimed it would be difficult to take the necessary precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.
According to a document shared by his lawyer, Ayça Çiçek, local authorities in Ordu province’s Fatsa district said security in the neighborhood was adequate. Yet, they ultimately did not want Güney to attend the funeral, saying, “Considering the size of the crowd that will gather for the funeral and the number of COVID-19 cases in the neighborhood, pandemic-related regulations could lead to vulnerabilities and problems with security measures.”
Güney’s parents died in a traffic accident on Saturday. Çiçek said staff at İstanbul’s Silivri Prison had completed all the preparations for him to attend the funeral.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a human rights defender, asked the authorities to let Güney attend the ceremony. “Don’t prevent the inmate from exercising his legal rights and be known for that,” he said in a tweet.
Güney is one of the air force cadets who were arrested and sentenced to life in prison after a coup attempt in July 2016. The cadets were in the western city Yalova for training during the coup. They were taken to İstanbul’s Bosporus Bridge by bus that night, where some of them were attacked by a pro-government mob, claiming the lives of two of the cadets, Murat Tekin and Ragıp Enes Katran.
The cadets said they were unaware that a coup was underway as the putschist bid unfolded. According to CCTV footage, they were not involved in any acts of violence despite the fact that their bus was attacked by the mob.
In the case of one of the cadets, Ahmet Dinçer Sakaoğlu, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said in a recent opinion that the Turkish government deprived him of his liberty on an arbitrary basis.
“The military cadets, including Mr. Sakaoğlu, did not take any action other than to obey simple military orders for support against the said terrorist attack, such as ‘get on the bus,’ ‘get off the bus,’ ‘stop’ and ‘walk.’ Such orders were given by the military commanders, who were appointed by their state-appointed superiors,” WGAD said.
The working group’s opinion is considered to have set a precedent for the more than 300 other former military cadets who were also sentenced to life in prison for allegedly participating in the abortive putsch.
Social media users started a campaign on Twitter to ask authorities to allow Güney to attend the funeral with the hashtag #MurataCenazeizniVerilsin.
Hüda Kaya, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish rights Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Güney was only a student, yet he was sentenced to life on coup charges, asking the authorities to allow him to attend the funeral.
Another HDP lawmaker, Hüseyin Kaçmaz, appealed to the Ministry of Justice on Twitter to allow Güney to attend the funeral.
“It is against the law and the conscience of the nation not to allow him attend the funeral citing security reasons,” Kaçmaz said.