Authorities refuse to provide information on inmate hospitalized for COVID-19

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Ertaş Sofuoğlu, a psychologist imprisoned for alleged links to the Gülen movement, was hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 28, but authorities have not released information about his condition since, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported citing Bold Medya.

Sofuoğlu was incarcerated at İstanbul’s Silivri Prison, notorious for its high number of political prisoners, and was hospitalized inside the prison complex. According to his family, hospital and prison authorities have not respond to their questions about him, but only say “his condition is stable.”

Sofuoğlu suffers from other health problems including high blood pressure, kidney disease and hyperglycemia, and his family worries about his current condition.

Sofuoğlu was arrested on March 2017 and sentenced to seven years, six months in prison. His sentence was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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. He 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.

Silivri Prison houses some 23,000 inmates and has been criticized for not taking enough precautions against the spread of COVID-19. According to MP and human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, overcrowding is a serious problem and as many as 45 inmates can be held in wards meant to accommodate just seven people. Inmates have also complained about unsanitary conditions.

According to Yunus Alkaç, director general of Prisons and Detention Centers, 50 inmates have died of COVID-19 in Turkey’s jails since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country in March 2020.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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