HDP calls for the immediate release of Aysel Tuğluk whose condition deteriorates

The HDP Women's Council demands the immediate release of the Kurdish politician and lawyer Aysel Tuğluk, who has been imprisoned for five years and whose health condition is increasingly deteriorating.

Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for five years, is in need of care and incapacitated due to dementia. The Women's Council of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) demands her immediate release.

Aysel Tuğluk has been in Kandıra prison in the western Turkish province of Kocaeli since 28 December 2016. The lawyer, who also represented Abdullah Öcalan among others, has already been convicted in several trials, other trials are still pending. In February 2020, the Turkish Court of Appeal confirmed Tuğluk's highest prison sentence to date, of ten years' imprisonment. The 56-year-old politician was convicted of "directing a terrorist organisation" due to her function as co-chair of the grassroots alliance Democratic Society Congress (DTK). This was followed in mid-October by a sentence of twenty months imprisonment against the former member of parliament for alleged terror propaganda in 2012 and 2013. She faces an aggravated life sentence in the so-called Kobanê trial in Ankara.

In a statement published on Wednesday, the HDP Women's Council pointed out that Aysel Tuğluk's dementia was not made public for a long time at her request. However, as her condition is increasingly deteriorating and her life is now in danger, public solidarity is unavoidable. The prison commission of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) had also drawn attention to this and demanded the suspension of the remaining sentence. The prisoner, who suffers from dementia, can no longer care for herself and is completely dependent on the help of her fellow prisoners. Some time ago, the forensic medicine department at Kocaeli University diagnosed Aysel Tuğluk as incapacitated and recommended her urgent release. However, contrary to the legal situation, the responsible chief public prosecutor's office has rejected applications for her release.

The HDP Women's Council sees a connection between the illness and the anti-Kurdish state policy in Turkey and stated that the trigger for the loss of memory was the funeral of Aysel Tuğluk's mother. In September 2017, an attack by a Turkish mob on the funeral of Hatun Tuğluk sparked nationwide outrage. Hundreds of racists and nationalists attacked the funeral in Ankara with stones and shouted hate slogans against Armenians and Alevis. The remains of Aysel Tuğluk's mother had to be exhumed because the mob had threatened to desecrate the body. A few days later, Hatun Tuğluk was buried in Dersim without her daughter being allowed to say goodbye as the prison administration did not give her a second special permit. According to the HDP Women's Council, Aysel Tuğluk has not recovered from this traumatic experience:

"Responsible for Aysel Tuğluk's illness is the government of the one-man regime. It tries to keep itself in power with war, death, sexism, polarisation, discrimination and militarism and takes struggling women into political hostage. A vindictive enemy criminal law is being used against Aysel Tuğluk who spent her life fighting for the rights of women, Kurds and Alevis, and was the first woman in Turkey to represent the gender-parity dual leadership of a political party as co-chair of the DTP.”

The demand for justice for Aysel Tuğluk thus means the defence of the women's movement, democratic politics and life, said the HDP Women's Council and continued: "We demand the immediate release of Aysel Tuğluk and hold the Ministry of Justice responsible if her condition deteriorates. We appeal to all women: let us stand up for a policy of life against the policy of death imposed on Aysel Tuğluk and the other imprisoned women!"