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Imprisoned teacher declared brain dead a week after collapsing in cell

Cengiz Karakurt (41), a former teacher arrested for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, was declared brain dead on Wednesday after having passed out in his prison cell on September 15, Bold Medya reported.

Karakurt had open-heart surgery 10 years ago for aortic valve regurgitation. He had been sick in prison for a while and taken to the hospital several times, only to be sent back with antibiotics for treatment of a cold, according to his wife, Hatice Karakurt. He had been taken to the hospital on September 14, where he was told that there was no health reason necessitating his release from prison. He was put in a solitary cell for COVID-19 quarantine, although he had prior health problems that required monitoring.

After collapsing in his cell he was admitted to intensive care and was declared brain dead a week later. A day after he was declared brain dead, his release from prison was issued.

Karakurt was arrested on April 16, 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He had been dismissed from his job by a government decree.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist and an MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Karakurt’s death was a result of gross negligence. “There is a pattern in the negligence of prisoner health. Their lives should not be this worthless.”

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and over 150,000 public servants, including 4,145 judges and prosecutors, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationship with “terrorist organizations.”