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Turkish court files complaint against lawyer of academic who died in prison, due to remarks about trial

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Judges of a high criminal court in İstanbul have filed a complaint with a prosecutor against a lawyer representing academic Tuğrul Özşengül, who died of a heart attack in prison in July, for a remark the attorney made at a hearing, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Expression Interrupted.

Özşengül repeatedly mentioned his heart condition in court and told the judges he would die if he had another cardiac arrest in prison. However, the court unanimously decided that Özşengül should remain incarcerated.

The retrial of Özşengül based on a separated case file was held on March 21 after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in December. The prosecutor submitted his final opinion and asked the court to drop Özşengül’s case. In his statement protesting the opinion, Özşengül’s lawyer, Mustafa Bal requested his client’s acquittal.

“Some judges and prosecutors have taken the easy way out and have found it safer to cast aside the principles of justice and the rule of law and to serve under remote control,” Bal said, according to Expression Interrupted.

The court ruled to dismiss the case against Özşengül due to his demise and decided to file a criminal complaint with the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Bal for “insulting” and “targeting” the court.

Özşengül, who died at the age of 56, retired in 2014 as a lecturer at the Police Academy. After a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, he was taken into custody and arrested for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, which the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed coup.

He was sentenced to life in prison by an İstanbul court in 2019. After the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the decision, he was retried, and this time he was sentenced to 12 years. The verdict was again appealed at the top court and the Supreme Court of Appeals again overturned his conviction on December 8.

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