Aysel Tuğluk’s lawyers say that they will legally challenge a report released on Feb. 15 by the Forensic Medical Institute that deemed the imprisoned former deputy co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who suffers from early-onset dementia, fit to stand trial.
Tuğluk was arrested in 2016 as part of the government’s targeting of the pro-Kurdish HDP on terrorism charges. Tuğluk has suffered from early-onset dementia since her mother died in 2017, has increasingly lost touch with the world, and is unable to care for herself, according to her lawyers. She began displaying symptoms of memory loss after racist agitators attacked her mother’s funeral in 2017, which she attended on leave from prison.
Her legal team says, with medical evidence, that the longer she remains imprisoned the more severe her condition becomes.
Once Tuğluk began displaying symptoms, her legal team began appealing for her release. They 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 long dismissed the report, saying that she is fit to remain behind bars and that the “disease does not prevent her from being in prison.”
Earlier this month, Tuğluk was released for just three days for a medical observation at the Forensic Medicine Institute, then returned to prison.
In addition to the Kocaeli medical report, Tuğluk’s legal team also referred her case to the Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine’s Neurology department, and experts there too said she needs urgent tests and treatment to prevent the further deterioration of her cognitive ability.
Now, in response to renewed calls for Tuğluk’s release, the ATK has released a new report saying that Tuğluk holds “full criminal responsibility.” The ATK response did not include medical data on Tuğluk and failed to address how prison could worsen her already deteriorating condition.
Tuğluk’s legal team says the report is “biased” and “unscientific,” and that they will therefore be issuing a legal challenge. The findings regarding Tuğluk’s case are “vague and ambiguous,” they say, and even contradict previous findings by the ATK. Formerly, the organization found that Tuğluk’s health and cognitive ability were deteriorating.
Per Turkish law, prisoners need to be in good health to carry out their sentence and continued detention cannot pose a threat to their health. Despite this, numerous prisoners, particularly political prisoners, have been kept behind bars despite illness, even to the point of death.
The legal team will sue all those physicians and experts named in the ATK report, and say all roads to getting Tuğluk out of prison have not been exhausted. They are also hoping to arrange medical treatment for her.
“We have started the necessary legal process to carry out criminal and administrative investigations against the physicians whose signature and responsibility are in the reports prepared against the medical ethics rules,” her legal team said.