Lawyers call for release of prominent Kurdish politician suffering from illness

Lawyers of prominent Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk have called on authorities to release her, citing her deteriorating health condition. The Human Rights Association (İHD) previously said that Tuğluk was suffering from early-onset dementia.

Duvar English

Lawyers of a prominent Kurdish politician have called on authorities to release her, citing the illness she's suffering from. 

Aysel Tuğluk, who was arrested in December 2016 as part of an operation against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) on charges related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is suffering from early-onset dementia, the Human Rights Association (İHD) previously said.

The politician remains in prison despite medical experts and her legal team calling for her immediate release. According to the İHD, her dementia has severely worsened over the court of her imprisonment. If she remains in prison, her lawyers told daily Evrensel, she is at risk of death.

Tuğluk was given a ten-year prison sentence on terrorism charges and has been held in Kandıra high-security prison for the past five years. In 2017, she lost her mother Hatun Tuğluk, whose funeral ceremony in the capital Ankara was marred by a fascist mob's attack. 

Following the attack, Tuğluk's body was taken to the eastern province of Dersim to be buried. The assailants, meanwhile, defended themselves by saying that they thought "a terrorist funeral" was underway. 

After her mother’s death, Aysel Tuğluk’s condition rapidly deteriorated. Her lawyer, Serdar Çelebi, said that she withdrew from the world.

“She was very affected by what happened. She cut off contact with the world. She did not attend to her daily needs. She went through a process where she became cut off from life,” he said.

As her illness progressed, Tuğluk’s lawyers applied to medical experts to help facilitate her release. Kocaeli University Hospital department of Forensic Medicine said that Tuğluk could not stay in prison due to her illness. However, the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute ignored this report and issued their own statement that “the disease does not prevent her from being in prison.”

Çelebi and the rest of Tuğluk’s legal team determined that the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute issued an incomplete and contradictory report. 

“We have appealed to the Supreme Board regarding the preparation of this report, along with our objections that the report prepared by the institute is not scientific and is not truthful. We still have not received a response regarding the outcome of the objection,” Çelebi said. 

False reports lead to deaths

Çelebi noted that false reports prepared by the institution stating that prisoners could remain imprisoned have led to the deaths of “thousands” of prisoners in Turkey. He fears that if left in prison, Tuğluk could meet the same fate.

If legal precedent were followed, he says, Tuğluk would be able to be released under house arrest or probation. However, because of her political affiliation, the government is insisting she stay in prison despite its risks to her health. Çelebi said the notion that she is a flight risk - and therefore not eligible for release for medical treatment - is absurd considering her condition.

“It is ridiculous to claim that a person with such a serious illness is at risk of escaping or obscuring evidence. Due to her illness, she can't even defend herself,” Çelebi said, “We cannot find a justification for such a person to remain in prison.”