13 ill prisoners died while in prison in first three months of 2021, says IHD

Human rights activist Meral Nergis Şahin said: "The situation for sick prisoners is getting worse and they urgently need treatment which is systematically hindered or denied. There is a de facto policy of death in prisons."

Thirteen ill prisoners died while in custody in Turkey in the first quarter of the year. In the previous two years, more than fifty seriously ill prisoners died behind bars within twelve months. The figures were presented on Saturday at the 496th "F sit-in" organised by the prison commission of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Organization, IHD. "The situation for ill prisoners is dire, urgently needed treatments are systematically hindered or denied. There is a de facto policy of death in prisons," said human rights activist Meral Nergis Şahin.

According to the latest figures from the IHD, there are currently 1,605 sick prisoners in Turkish prisons. At least 604 of them suffered from life-threatening illnesses, 249 of them are women. Şahin speaks of a “cruel parallel world” beyond the law in the prisons, in which the right to life is no longer valid - especially in the case of political prisoners. There is not only a lack of adequate treatment measures, but also a lack of hygiene and nutritional options. This situation poses a serious threat to the right to life of all prisoners, which the state is constitutionally obliged to protect, as well as by international agreements. Since the AKP came to power in 2002, well over 2,500 prisoners have died.

The fact that every person without exception has the right to life-saving measures and that this responsibility rests with the government, applies only to very few in Turkey, said Şahin. “This mentality was recently reflected in the case of Mehmet Ali Çelebi. The 70-year-old was imprisoned for almost three decades and suffered from leukemia, high blood pressure, decreased vision as a result of a stroke and kidney failure, among other things. For years his relatives fought for his release. But it was only when it was much too late that the Turkish judiciary ordered the early end of imprisonment. Ten days later, Çelebi died of a serious type of cancer in a hospital in Istanbul-Başakşehir.

Meral Nergis Şahin said she fears that Mehmet Emin Özkan will suffer a similar fate. The now 83-year-old Kurd has been behind bars for 25 years. He suffers from various diseases, including an aneurysm in the brain, high blood pressure, a thyroid disease, Alzheimer's dementia, which leads to memory loss, confusion and disorientation, hearing loss, weak breathing and a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Özkan has survived six heart attacks so far, four times he had to undergo a cardiac catheter examination. However, he has not been released. "Ali Osman Köse, Ergin Aktaş, Ekim Polat, Mehmet Yamaç, Fatma Tokmak, Süreyya Bulut, Dicle Bozan, Serdal Yıldırım, Kemal Gömi, Kemal Özelmalı, are the names of some seriously ill prisoners who are currently being left to die," Şahin said. “They need to be released, as do the elderly, women and young children."