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Former general serving life sentence on coup charges dies in prison

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Kemal Mutlum, a former brigadier general who was serving an aggravated life sentence on conviction of coup charges following an abortive putsch in Turkey in July 2016, died in prison on Wednesday, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the TR724 news website.

Mutlum, who was head of the Air Force’s command and control department at the time of the failed coup, is the latest inmate to die from cancer in prison after being denied release to seek proper medical treatment despite several appeals from his lawyers and family members.

Mutlum had a brain tumor, and his fellow inmates on the ward helped him see to his personal needs.

Aydemir Taşçı, a former Turkish Air Force general, has gone on a hunger strike to draw attention to the neglect of critically ill prisoners.

In a letter sent in September to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, Taşçı demanded the immediate release of sick prisoners, in particular Kemal Mutlum and Özcan Çay, both of whom were unable to walk and were suffering from cognitive dysfunction due to health problems.

According to Gergerlioğlu, more than 60 critically ill inmates died in Turkish prisons between January and September 2022, which was a “world record.”

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.

Gergerlioğlu previously said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Association (İHD), the number of sick prisoners is in the thousands, more than 600 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.

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