Ailing ex-general fights for survival after sentence delay
ISTANBUL / ANKARAFormer general Ergin Saygun remains in critical condition after a heart operation the day after the ailing veteran’s 18-year prison sentence was postponed, but his situation is “hopeful.”
After a medical report on Feb. 7, Saygun’s 18-year prison sentence was postponed in line with new regulations authorizing such decisions in the event of a convict’s poor health.
Saygun, one of the generals convicted last year of “trying to overthrow the government by force” in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, underwent a heart surgery and remains in critical condition, according to his daughter Ece Saygun.
“My father’s life is still at risk. The first 48 hours are very critical,” Ece Saygun wrote on her twitter account, adding that the former general has given some signs to give his daughter hope.
Ece Saygun also said that she told the former general about the court decision.
“I told him that he was released and we will go home after [the hospital],” she added. “I told him to open his eyes [if he could hear me] and he did! I told him to hold my hand and he did!”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Ece Saygun in order to convey his wishes for a speedy recovery to her father and his family, the Anatolia news agency reported on Feb. 8. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also called her, a statement by the CHP’s press office announced on Feb. 8.
During the telephone conversation, Kılıçdaroğlu voiced his pleasure over Ergin Saygun’s release, while appreciating Ece Saygun’s efforts to preserve her father’s health.
According to the court ruling, Ergin Saygun’s condition of arrest was “postponed.” A further court ruling on whether Saygun would return to prison or not would be made after a second health report. The Forensic Medicine Department will also present monthly reports on Saygun to the court.
Despite the ruling, Saygun’s lawyer Sedat Küçükyılmaz had complained that the court decision was made too late.
“Previous reports had warned them about the risks,” the lawyer said. “That was not sufficient for the court members. They asked for the latest report, and that was delayed by 45 days. They caused the operation.”
İsmet Berkan, a columnist from the daily Hürriyet, also criticized the judiciary process for not issuing the release earlier.
“When the first decision to arrest him was made, Saygun’s health condition was really bad…and the court made great efforts to arrest him,” Berkan wrote on Feb. 8. “Could not [Saygun] be tried without arrest? Of course he could. What is the reason for insisting on putting someone who was almost immobile, who should take more than 10 medicines every day and whose life functions should be closely followed, in jail, when there were no convictions?
“We cannot answer those questions because justice is ‘independent,’” Berkan added.
Saygun is among the 325 total suspects in the Balyoz coup case, where all retired or active-duty members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were issued at least 16 years of imprisonment.
An open letter from Saygun dated Feb. 6 emerged as well, saying that he wished to live so that he could be saved from “this stain.” “My only wish is that my God gives me enough life so that I can clean this stain,” the letter read. “That was why I shouted, ‘You cannot kill me’ in court, because I am on the good side, because I am not pro-coup.”