Turkish political prisoner with Huntington's disease jailed after six years of appeals

Bekir Güven, who is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and is 98 percent disabled, was imprisoned on Sept. 20 after six years of appeals in a case concerning his social media posts from 2015. As his condition has worsened, the prosecutor ruled that Güven should serve the remainder of his sentence in hospital. The Güven family however demands that the charges be completely dropped. 

Duvar English 

Bekir Güven, who is severely disabled from Huntington’s disease, was charged in 2015 and charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “insulting the president" for posts he shared on social media. 

After an appeals court upheld his 22-month prison sentence following a six-year-long judiciary process, Güven, who now requires 24-hour care, was arrested on Sept. 20 and sent to a high-security prison in the western province of Eskişehir. Due to his rapidly deteriorating medical condition, he has now been transferred to a hospital to serve out his sentence. 

According to his wife, Rukiye Güven, Güven began working for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in 2015, around the same time he was diagnosed with Huntington’s. 

“My husband’s illness began around that time, but his condition was not bad. Over time, the disease progressed and he was given a 98% disability report,” she said.

In 2015 and 2016, thousands were arrested for posting online about the violence waged in Turkey’s East after the collapse of peace talks between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government. Bekir Güven was one of them. He was charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “insulting the president,” charges carrying 22-month and 1-year and 1-month prison sentences, respectively. He and his wife appealed both charges, but the 22-month sentence was upheld by the courts - the sentence for “insulting the president” is still pending. After Güven was arrested on Sept. 20, his wife spoke to Gazete Duvar about the incident.

“Yesterday [Sept. 20], while he was sitting in front of a tea shop, the police came and took him to prison. We followed after them, but we weren’t allowed to see him,” Rukiye Güven said.

She further argued that all charges against Güven should be dismissed due to his medical condition. Huntington’s disease, which targets the body’s neurons and is a central part of the body’s nervous system, is exacerbated by stress. Being imprisoned, she argues, will rapidly worsen Güven’s condition.

“I want my husband’s sentence to be completely canceled,” Rukiye Güven said. “My husband’s sentence is not long, but even four months in prison means the disease will worsen by four years.”

The Eskisehir prosecutor ruled that Bekir Güven should serve the remainder of his sentence in hospital. The Güven family and their lawyers are appealing the decision to have the charges completely dropped.