This call follows our earlier statement of 8 December, when we informed the international public of the worsening health of jailed HDP politician and former deputy, Ms Aysel Tuğluk. Tuğluk was arrested on bogus “terrorism charges” in December 2016. She is suffering from dementia, which has become severe over the course of her imprisonment.
In 2017, Tuğluk lost her mother, Hatun Tuğluk. The funeral ceremony in Ankara was attacked by a racist mob, and her mother’s body had to be taken to her hometown, Dersim, to be buried. A short time after losing her mother and the trauma of this attack, Tuğluk began having health issues. She frequently told her family and lawyers that she didn’t want these to be talked about, but her condition continued to deteriorate. Suffering from increasing memory loss, Tuğluk became unable to take care of herself. On 15 March, Kocaeli University Hospital diagnosed her with dementia. In their final report, issued on 12 July, the University’s Department of Forensic Science stated that the dementia might progress, that there might be problems about medical support and care, and that it was not possible for Tuğluk to continue her life without help. Tuğluk was then referred to the Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK), which is an agency of the Ministry of Justice. After just a two-hour examination, the Institute concluded that Tuğluk “can lead her life and the enforcement of her sentence can continue in the prison with her treatment and regular check-ups carried out.” Based on this report, the prosecutor’s office rejected a request for the deferral of the enforcement of Tuğluk’s sentence.
On 21 December, Tuğluk’s attorneys applied for a third report, and their application was accepted. A committee was set up at the Kocaeli İzmit Seka State Hospital. Her situation will be re-examined and a new report will be prepared.
On 24 December, HDP Co-chair, Ms Pervin Buldan, visited Aysel Tuğluk in Kandıra F Type Prison. Buldan found that Tuğluk is unable to meet her own needs. She observed that she had difficulty in speaking and recognizing people, and that she had limitations in her movements.
As we have repeatedly underlined in our statements, Turkey’s prisons have become centers of ill-treatment and torture. The international community is well aware of the inhumane prison conditions and extreme isolation in Imrali Island prison, which were also underlined by the CPT in its various reports on Turkey. Many prisoners across Turkey live under similar conditions of extreme isolation, torture, and ill treatment, which has exacerbated even further during the pandemic. Such conditions have led to suicides in prisons and death of sick prisoners. According to human rights organizations, there are currently over 1,600 sick prisoners in Turkey. Ill treatment is so pervasive that sick prisoners either leave prisons in coffins or lose their lives just a few days after their release. Hundreds of other sick prisoners, like Aysel Tuğluk, are not granted release and have been left to die in prison on the basis of the politically motivated reports of the Forensic Medicine Institution.
Sadly, the past few weeks have witnessed a series of prison deaths.
Vedat Erkmen, serving a life sentence in Tekirdağ Prison, was found dead in his cell on 19 December. His family was told this was suicide.
Ilyas Demir, serving a life sentence in Bolu Prison, was found dead in his cell on 17 December. Demir had been suffering from mental health conditions.
Halil Gunes, a cancer patient serving a life sentence in Diyarbakır Prison, was found dead in his cell on 15 December. His appeals to be released due to his condition had been rejected.
Abdulrezzak Suyur, another cancer patient, lost his life in Izmir province on the same day.
On 9 December, Garibe Gezer, a twenty-eight-year-old Kurdish politician in the Kandıra Prison, was found dead in her cell while under solitary confinement. The prison administration said she had committed suicide. Gezer had previously reported that she was sexually abused and tortured by prison guards. Twenty-two female HDP deputies brought these reports of torture and sexual abuse to the attention of the Parliament and the Minister of Justice, but to no avail.
We call on the international community, first and foremost the CPT and other relevant organs of the Council of Europe, human rights commissioners of the CoE and the UN, human and women’s rights organizations, and all friends and colleagues to take immediate action for Aysel Tuğluk and all sick prisoners and against this inhumane situation in Turkish prisons before it is too late.
It has already been too late for too many.
Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy
Co-spokespersons of HDP for Foreign Affairs