Turkish justice system fails to release purge victim diagnosed with stage 4 cancer

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Abdülazim Özdemir, a 49-year-old engineer who was purged from his job at the Ministry of Development in the aftermath of a failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and subsequently jailed on terrorism charges, has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in prison but is still not being released, according to a letter from his wife, who is also in prison, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Özdemir and his wife Emir, a math teacher of 20 years, are among the more than 150,000 public workers who were removed from their posts as part of a massive purge launched by the Turkish government following the coup attempt due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In a letter to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and a deputy from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Emir Özdemir wrote that her husband, who has been jailed for 10 months in the western Turkish province of Balıkesir, was recently diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. The woman said although her husband had visited a doctor many times due to his health issues, his diagnosis as well as liver surgery due to jaundice were done very late, after the cancer had already spread to other organs.

She accused the prison administration of negligence and a violation of her husband’s rights.

“I am asking for the immediate release of my husband from jail so that he can be treated under better circumstances. His sentence can be suspended. … We should not lose any time as he needs to undergo chemotherapy,” said the woman.

Following the coup attempt, Abdülazim Özdemir was jailed in Sincan Prison in Ankara for 14 months, then released on appeal after the court handed down a jail sentence of six years, three months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. His file was awaiting review at the Supreme Court of Appeals for one-and-a-half years, but he was jailed again in March 2019 and sent to Bandırma Prison.

Emir Özdemir has been jailed in Keskin Prison in Kırıkkale for 10 months. She was also handed down a jail sentence of six years, three months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. Her file is pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The couple have three daughters aged 5, 9 and 15 who are currently being taken care of their grandparents, who are in their 80s.

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