Top Turkish court rejects release of jailed Kurdish politician, despite deteriorating health

Turkey's Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal for the release of Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk, who suffers from dementia and early-stage Alzheimer's.

Duvar English

Turkey's Constitutional Court has rejected an application to release former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy co-chair Aysel Tuğluk, who suffers from dementia and early-stage Alzheimer's, Mezopotamya news agency reported on Aug. 12.

In its ruling, the top court ordered the authorities to "take the necessary measures for the protection of the applicant's material and immaterial unity,” to continue her medical treatment, and to ensure a regular physical examination for health being. The court also said that authorities evaluate whether her release is necessary or not “at certain intervals depending on the progress of her illness.”

Tuğluk's lawyers slammed the court's decision in a statement saying that it was basing its decision on the pro-government Forensic Science Institute (ATK) whose medical reports diagnose Tuğluk's case as being “mild” and say that she can stay remain in prison in her condition.

“It is a wrong approach that the ATK is seen as the only expert committee with regards to the issue. On top of that, the ATK is known for decades for its reputation on causing the death of sick political prisoners due to its reports that contradict law, science and ethics,” the lawyers said.

Tuğluk has been held in a high-security prison for more than five years on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. She 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).

In recent years, Tuğluk’s family and legal team began reporting her declining health. Tuğluk's condition deteriorated in the aftermath of her mother’s funeral in 2017, which was attacked by an anti-Kurdish nationalist mob. Tuğluk was on leave from prison to attend the funeral, but because of the violence, she was unable to see her mother being buried.

She has received a medical report from Kocaeli University Hospital stating that due to her condition, she is unfit to remain imprisoned. However, the ATK ruled that she is able to stay in prison and has refused to approve her release.

Tuğluk’s team says that the longer she stays behind bars, the worse her condition will become. Activists, politicians, and human rights groups have been calling for her release since late last year with increasing urgency as her condition worsens. Tuğluk is just 57 years old.