Two sick prisoners died in Turkish prisons and one prisoner died of COVID-19

Statement by our Foreign Affairs Spokespersons Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy:

According to the Human Rights Association of Turkey (İHD), twenty prisoners have died in Turkish prisons this year. There are hundreds of seriously sick prisoners in Turkey, who could not benefit from the amnesty law in April 2020 that excluded from its scope both political prisoners and all those who were jailed pending trial at the time of the legislation. Three more prisoners have died over the last three weeks, unfortunately. The national and international awareness about Turkish prisons and sick prisoners during the debates on the amnesty law in April has left its place to news about dying prisoners that are falling on deaf ears.  

On September 19th, 75-year-old retired teacher Takiyettin Özkahraman died in Patnos L Type Prison in Ağrı. Mr Özkahraman served in the past as the chair of Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) in Malazgirt district of Muş. He had lung failure, became sick many times in prison, but never had proper medical treatment. The court rejected many appeals for his release despite his declining health condition.

On September 23rd, 76-year-old Ali Boçnak died in the same prison. He was sentenced to seven years and eight months for conducting a funeral ceremony in Kurdish and had been in prison since 2017. Mr Bocnak was on the list of sick prisoners of the Human Rights Association. He had a cerebral vascular occlusion, shortness of breath, kidney failure and severe prostate disease. Despite these, all appeals of his lawyer for his release were rejected. 

On October 2nd, 57-year-old political prisoner Muhammed Emir, arrested in Maraş Elbistan Type E Closed Prison, died while in hospital. The medical report stated the reason for death as “epidemic disease/natural death.” Later it became clear that he lost his life due to the Covid 19. According to the information we received from families and lawyers of prisoners, many other prisoners were also infected and put under quarantine. But we do not know the number of prisoners who tested positive in this and other Turkish prisons. 

The government is responsible for the death of these sick prisoners for at least three reasons: first, by unlawfully imprisoning them (at least the first two of them); second, by unlawfully excluding them from the amnesty law; third, by not releasing them from the prison, even if temporarily, despite their declining health. These three people could have been alive if the government had chosen to be fair and applied the amnesty law to all prisoners equally. 

Once again, we call upon the Council of Europe authorities - the CPT, the Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Monitoring Committee of the PACE, in particular, human rights organs of the UN and the EU, our sister parties, and all institutions concerned with the rights of prisoners: Please closely monitor Turkish prisons, the situation of sick prisoners, in particular, be their voice, and take action to protect their rights and their health.

Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy
HDP’s Co-spokespersons for Foreign Affairs
12 October 2020