Cancer patient jailed for alleged Gülen links dies shortly after release from prison

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Deniz Hakan Şen

A 42-year-old cancer patient, Deniz Hakan Şen, who was jailed in October 2017 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, died on Tuesday shortly after he was released from prison.

Şen was suffering from an advanced level of stomach cancer when he was jailed. Although he objected to his imprisonment many times, with medical reports showing he was unfit to stay in prison, Turkish courts ruled for the continuation of his imprisonment until Feb. 19, when he was eventually released.

He was also denied by prison authorities the opportunity to seek necessary medical treatment. Şen, who used to be a pharmaceutical sales representative, had been arrested on coup charges.

According to a tweet posted by prominent Turkish human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on Tuesday, Şen wrote 45 petitions to the prison administration asking for urgent medical treatment; however, his petitions were ignored for 60 days by the relevant Turkish authorities while he lost more than 35 kilograms during this period and dropped to 50 from 85 kilograms due to his deteriorating medical condition in prison.

“Deniz Hakan Şen, who was 42 years old, died today. Is there anyone who can give an accounting of his death?” Gergerlioğlu asked from his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. On Dec. 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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