It is like a ritual that the Istanbul police repress week after week the “judicial vigil” of the relatives of sick prisoners in order to prevent the public from being informed of the situation in the prisons. For 28 weeks, the initiative has taken to the streets of the Bosphorus metropolis to make their concern visible and heard: the release of seriously ill prisoners and those who continue to be imprisoned because they have not repented despite serving their sentence.
Almost every gathering of the group, made up mostly of mothers fighting for the lives of their imprisoned children, have been violently broken up by police since they began last March. Today, security forces again cracked down on families of prisoners, detaining at least nine people. Among them are Evin Genç, co-president of Anyakay-Der, a solidarity association of families of martyrs and missing prisoners in central Anatolia, and Zeynep Calıhan, Kumri Akgül and Cemile Çiftçi, mothers of political prisoners. Representatives of the press were also repeatedly harassed by the police. The journalists concerned were Zeynep Kuray (ANF), Rukiye Adıgüzel (MA), Hayri Tunç (Fersude) and Meral Danyıldız (Artı TV).
Death in prison: state murder
“We have again witnessed the regime’s thugs act in a barbaric manner against peaceful people who exercise their fundamental right to freedom of assembly and denounce the life-threatening situation of sick prisoners,” criticized the violent dispersal of the rally by the HDP MP Musa Piroğlu. police. “This state leaves sick prisoners to certain death. Dozens of prisoners have died behind bars since the beginning of the year. Behind this there is a whole system of oppression and deprivation of rights which in fact amounts to a state murder,” Piroğlu said. The fact that this action by the regime is not exposed and publicly denounced under any circumstances is part of the pattern of Turkish criminal law against the enemy, he said.
IHD: 650 seriously ill detainees
According to the Human Rights Association (IHD), there are more than 1,500 sick people in Turkish prisons and around 650 of them are seriously ill. In all cases, these are so-called prisoners of conscience – people who have been imprisoned because of their political and ideological opinions. Releases are extremely rare, even though Turkey has ratified the “European Prison Rules”. Because the Institute of Forensic Medicine (ATK), which is part of the Ministry of Justice, certifies that many sick prisoners are fit for detention, deaths occur time and time again. In 2022, about 50 prisoners have already died. According to the IHD, all these cases could have been avoided if the detainees in question had been released in time and had received uninterrupted treatment.
Arbitrary continued imprisonment due to lack of remorse for ‘criminal acts’
In addition, there are many people in Turkish prisons whose ordinary prison term has long since expired but who are still not released. These prisoners are Kurds convicted under the anti-terrorism law, often “lifers” who have served 30-year sentences. Under the pretext of not accepting the illegal imposition of “repentance of their crimes”, they are arbitrarily deprived of their right to liberty.