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Key Turkish Intel Officer, Arrested in Purge, Found Dead in his Prison Cell

Former key Turkish intelligence officer, who was imprisoned in a crackdown followed after the military coup in 2016, was found dead in his cell, raising suspicions over a possible cover-up of some dirty political tactics employed by the government against the opposition.

Zeki Guven, 48, former chief of Ankara Police Department Intelligence Unit, has been found dead in his prison cell in Ankara Sincan Prison, in the latest of a series of suspicious deaths that took place across Turkey’s prisons in the aftermath of the coup.

Guven was arrested along with his wife, Sevda Guven, a former judge, who was dismissed in a government purge, in the central province of Eskisehir in May.

The former police intelligence chief in Ankara department was in a key position in the security bureaucracy and had been on the wanted list of the government, which embarked on a sweeping campaign to purge non-loyalists from public service and the police department.

Guven had been implicated in a trial over a scandal that caused political controversy in Ankara in 2010. A number of lawmakers from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and then-Chairman of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deniz Baykal lost their positions after videotapes about their extra-marital relationships were leaked to media.

Guven had been re-assigned to another post in 2010 and was dismissed from National Police Department while he was serving as deputy police chief of the northwestern province of Bolu in 2015.

The government launched the first phase of its purge in police and judiciary after a corruption scandal implicating close associates and family members of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in late 2013.

Critics argue that Guven might have had knowledge about the government role in the 2010 sex tape scandal that sparked an upheaval and major overhaul in the opposition parties.

Opponents of Erdogan harbor suspicion that he might have had a hand in engineering the downfall of former CHP leader Baykal who was his chief nemesis at the time. Baykal himself suggested that the tape scandal was the work of Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Guven’s death is not the first of its kind. His suspicious case calls deaths of more than 40 people, including doctors, generals and police chiefs who were remanded in the post-coup crackdown, into question one more time. According to the Turkish media, he died of heart attack.

In September 2016, a prosecutor who previously digged into claims of massive embezzlement and corruption in government housing agency, TOKI, was found dead in his prison cell in the western province of Bursa.

The family of Prosecutor Seyfettin Yigit refused the official explanation that he had committed suicide in prison. His death came only days after his phone talk with the family members. During that call, the family conveyed a positive impression and the prosecutor had shown no signs of discomfort or disquiet about the conditions of his imprisonment.

Last month, a doctor was found dead in Istanbul Silivri prison. Ibrahim Halil Ozyavuz was tortured to death, his family believes. Facing pressure from the family, the police changed their statement regarding the cause of the doctor’s death.

At first, the police claimed that the doctor killed himself, beat himself to death. When the family retrieved the body from a hospital morgue, they found torture signs. When the family pressed the police to learn more about the death of Ozyavuz, the police then claimed that other inmates tortured the doctor to death.

But if that was the case, there should have been an investigation into other inmates. But so far now, no probe has been launched in that regard.

Guven’s death fuels genuine fears that similar incidents might follow after the election. Emboldened by a fresh mandate with his re-election in the presidential election last Sunday, President Erdogan pledged to go after his rivals whom he depicted as enemies of people with great impunity.

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