68 civil society organizations call for release of Kurdish politician suffering from illness

Some 68 civil society organizations, including women’s organizations, political parties, and lawyers, have called for the release of former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy co-chair Aysel Tuğluk, who is still imprisoned despite suffering from early-onset dementia.

Duvar English

Some 68 civil society organizations are jointly calling for the release of jailed activist and former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy co-chair Aysel Tuğluk following reports that she is suffering from early-onset dementia in prison.

Tuğluk has been imprisoned since 2016 and has been severely ill since her mother’s death in 2017. Despite repeated appeals by her lawyers, prison officials have refused to release her. Lawyers have secured a medical report from Kocaeli University Hospital department of Forensic Medicine that said that Tuğluk was not fit to stay in prison due to her illness. 

However, the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK) has dismissed this report and issued its own ruling. They say that “the disease does not prevent her from being in prison.”

The Human Rights Association of Turkey stated in November that it may be too late to save Tuğluk from an early death. The organization has previously stated that Tuğluk suffers from early-onset dementia as a result of repeated exposure to trauma, culminating in a racist attack on her mother’s funeral in 2017. However, her family and lawyers refer to her illness simply as “severe and irreversible.” All parties say she has shut herself off from the world and consistently deteriorated since 2017.

In this most recent statement, the 68 civil society organizations directly blame the Justice Ministry for her continued imprisonment. 

“While there is a comprehensive board report stating that Aysel Tuğluk cannot stay in prison, it is the responsibility of the state, especially the Justice Ministry, to persistently fail to comply with this requirement,” the statement reads. 

The organizations further state that the report by the ATK cannot be trusted due to the troubled and partisan history of the institution.

“This institution, which has been the subject of attention due to reports of it behaving counter to ethics, conscience, science, and the law for years, has also prepared one of its unscientific reports about Tuğluk, stating that the political prisoner can ‘stay in prison’ despite her serious and deadly illness. They also denied her dementia,” the statement wrote. 

The organizations further contend that appeals to the Supreme Council to review the contradictory reports and issue a determination have not been answered. The longer she waits, they say, the more her disease will progress, particularly in prison conditions.

They squarely place blame on the Justice Ministry for any further deterioration in Tuğluk’s condition.

“As a politician who has fought against all kinds of violence against women for years and has fought for women's freedom, we object to her,” they wrote. “We demand the release of Aysel Tuğluk.”