Turkish court once again denies release of 83-year-old ill prisoner

An 83-year-old severely ill prisoner has been yet again not released, despite his deteriorating health condition. Mehmet Emin Özkan could not make a defense at the court due to his hearing impairment, with a guard summarizing his condition to the chief judge as follows: “He cannot understand or hear you.”

Duvar English

A court in the southern province of Adana has rejected to release sick senior prisoner Mehmet Emin Özkan once again, despite his deteriorating health condition.

The 83-year-old Özkan attended a hearing in a retrial of his case at the Adana 7th Heavy Penal Court on Sept. 16.

Held in a prison in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, Özkan connected to the court via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS).

Due to his problems with hearing and understanding, Özkan could not make a defense. Upon a question of the chief judge, a guardian standing next to Özkan said: “He cannot understand or hear you.”

The court ruled for the continued imprisonment of Özkan and adjourned the hearing to Dec. 21, despite lawyers' demand for release.

Özkan has been in prison for 25 years and so far suffered five heart attacks, but hasn't been granted an early release. Due to his deteriorating health condition, he has been hospitalized more than seven times within the last year.

Özkan is serving a life sentence in the Diyarbakır Prison on charges of killing Bahtiyar Aydın, Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Regional Commander on Oct. 22, 1993, which took place in Lice district of Diyarbakır.

The only evidence in Özkan's conviction was the testimony of two confessors who later withdrew their statements as they said that they had given their testimony under torture. Özkan at the time was interrogated in Turkish although he could not speak Turkish and his only language was Kurdish.

In 2013, a retrial into the murder of Aydın was launched on the grounds that the previous trial violated the principle of “right to a fair trial” due to the presence of military members in the court board.

The new indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office found “no information confirming that Mehmet Emin Özkan was involved in this action [murder]”.

In the retrial of the case, Özkan's testimony was taken once again in 2017, this time through an interpreter. "I do not know any of the defendants. I have no connection to the incident," Özkan said in his testimony in Kurdish.

The retrial of Özkan has been going for eight years now.