Female lawyers urge bar associations to speak up for jailed politician Aysel Tuğluk

Female lawyers on Feb. 18 held a demonstration calling on bar associations to speak up for ill prisoners, especially Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk who suffers from early-onset dementia.

Duvar English 

The Forensic Medicine Institution (ATK) ruled on Feb. 4 that Kurdish politician and former deputy co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Aysel Tuğluk could remain in jail, though she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

It issued a report stating that Tuğluk had “full criminal liability” and suffered from “mild cognitive impairment.”

On Feb. 18, female lawyers held a protest in front of the Istanbul Bar Association calling for the execution of Aysel Tuğluk’s sentence to be deferred, online news portal Bianet reported. They said that she ought to be released from prison at once in order to undergo treatment.

Women’s rights defenders and opposition MPs joined the protest and lawyer Yelda Koçak Urfa read out the statement to the press.

Yelda Koçak Urfa emphasized that Forensic Medicine Department at the Kocaeli University had issued a medical report regarding Tuğluk's health condition, which concluded that her condition prevented her from leading her life on her own, and that therefore, the execution of her sentence should be deferred.

The lawyer said that the Forensic Medicine Institution, which is the sole authorized institution that can decide to postpone the execution of a sentence, had disregarded the report issued by Kocaeli University.

Yelda Koçak Urfa also noted that the court had insistently asked for a statement from Tuğluk despite her being able to provide defense, upon which the court referred her to the Forensic Medicine Institution at the behest of her lawyers in order to determine whether she was capable to prepare and make a statement of defense.

Referring to the report prepared by the Forensic Medicine Institution following this referral and a 3-day observation at the ATK, Yelda Koçak Urfa lamented the fact that Institution had not carried out an evaluation as to whether Tuğluk could provide a statement defense, but instead issued a report concluding that "she had full criminal liability."

Sharing further details from the latest report of the Forensic Medicine Institution on Tuğluk, lawyer Koçak Urfa said that while the report includes 25 pages, 16 pages were dedicated to a summary of the investigations and lawsuits brought against the politician. "The medical findings of the Institution are brought up only in two pages,” she said.

"The Forensic Medicine Institution widely mentioned the accusations as if they were public prosecutors in order to saturate the public debate with allegations of crime and conceal the actual health condition of Aysel Tuğluk,” Yelda Koçak Urfa added.

The protestors also castigated other bar associations for their silence regarding Aysel Tuğluk’s fate.

“Bar associations, which has the fundamental duties to ensure and inspect that human rights are upheld, remain silent about sick prisoners and deaths in prisons, though this has frequently featured in the public agenda in recent times,” Yelda Koçak Urfa said.

“We call on the 82 provincial bar associations, especially the Istanbul Bar Association, and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, to defend the right to life of Aysel Tuğluk and that of all sick prisoners,” she added.

Tuğluk 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).