The pictures showing the grim death of a police officer sacked with an emergency decree have sparked debate on the conditions in Turkish prisons amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Pictures from Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu’s prison cell in the northern province of Gümüşhane showed his dead body on a plastic chair in filthy surroundings, prompting deputies to question prison conditions.
Media reports said that the police officer, who had been in jail for four years, repeatedly asked for treatment for his deteriorating health, but his transfer to a hospital was denied.
Kabakçıoğlu, who suffered from asthma and diabetes, was put in a quarantine cell on Aug. 20 on suspicion of COVID-19 after he started coughing and stayed in the cell alone for nine days until authorities discovered his dead body on Aug. 29.
The police officer was arrested on July 26, 2016 and was dismissed from his post as part of a state of emergency decree issued on Sept. 1, 2016.
Turkey declared a months-long state of emergency following the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that’s widely believed to have been masterminded by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Thousands were dismissed from their posts as part of the decrees issued during the emergency rule, which critics say was used by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to silence dissent.
The government says that those dismissed are linked to the Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Those sacked with state of emergency decrees are trying to be reinstated to their jobs amid Turkey’s slow functioning judicial system.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gülizar Biçer Karaca has asked the Justice Ministry to reveal the data on COVID-19 in prisons and whether negligence lead to Kabakçıoğlu’s death.
“Why is the Justice Ministry silent on what is happening in prisons during the pandemic and why doesn’t it share data since July?” Karaca said in her parliamentary question on Oct. 15.
“Kabakçıoğlu’s death shows that the pandemic conditions in prisons are not in line with human dignity,” she added.
She also asked the ministry to explain the picture that shows Kabakçıoğlu’s dead body on a chair.
“Why was he found sitting on a chair?” Karaca asked.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu addressed Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül on Twitter.
“His death is filled with negligence, have you heard?” asked Gergerlioğlu.
Following criticism, Gümüşhane Public Prosecutor’s Office released a statement on Kabakçıoğlu’s death on Oct. 14, saying that the deceased officer didn’t want to go to a hospital.
It also said that an investigation was launched into the publishing of pictures from inside prison.
The Justice Ministry on Oct. 15 said that two inspectors were assigned to look into whether there was any negligence in Kabakçıoğlu’s death.