Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR

The wife of an inmate diagnosed with cancer and coronavirus has urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to release her husband.

Deniz Yıldırım has been behind bars at a prison in the southeastern province of Elazığ for four years, where he has been treated for intestinal and colon cancer. He recently contracted coronavirus and has been transferred to a hospital in Elazığ. His wife Birsen Yıldırım has called upon the health and justice ministries, as well as the Presidency for his release.

“I went to visit him on Monday. My husband was not sick then. On Wednesdays we have the right to talk on the phone but he didn’t call. I understood that something was wrong and I called the prison. The prison management said to call after noon. My husband was taken to the hospital but they did not inform us. Later we learned that my husband had tested positive for coronavirus,” Birsen Yıldırım said.

Emphasizing that her husband has been battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy prior to his coronavirus diagnosis, Birsen Yıldırım has called upon the authorities for his release.

“Now he has caught the virus. This means he has been abandoned to die. I am calling upon the public, the Presidency, and the Ministry of Health: Release my husband right away. There are thousands of [coronavirus] patients in jail, their voices must be heard. People are coming face to face with death at the moment,” Yıldırım said.

No response yet

Berivan Korkut from the Civil Society in the Penal System Association (CISST) said that they have applied on the behalf of Deniz Yıldırım’s release due to his health condition but have not received a response.

“Thousands of prisoners who have illnesses such as cancer are now in the risk group. We have emphasized time and time again that it is very difficult to protect these people. In particular, when cancer patients are brought to the hospital this risk increases significantly. Deniz Yıldırım’s situation is as we anticipated. Deniz needed to be at home alone and in contact with few people,” Korkut said.

Prisons in Turkey are not doing a sufficient job of informing the families of inmates regarding their health status, Korkut said.

“Prisoners who are being sent to hospitals cannot visit their families, and families and loved ones are unable to get the necessary information. At the moment we have filed many applications to find out how many cancer patients are in prison. Unfortunately none of them have received a response,” Korkut said.