21 bar associations, NGOs call for release of 83-year-old inmate with severe health problems

Photo: MA

Twenty-one bar associations and civil society organizations on Friday issued a joint statement calling on Turkish authorities to release Mehmet Emin Özkan, an 83-year-old inmate who suffers from severe health problems, according to Turkish media.

The statement said Özkan is unable to look after himself and is being kept in prison despite medical reports saying he’s not fit to be incarcerated.

“Keeping M. Emin Özkan in prison instead of treating him as an inpatient, not sending him to a hospital until his condition has deteriorated … show that inhuman treatment has become systematic,” the organizations said.

Özkan, who has been in prison for the past 25 years, has suffered four heart attacks. He has other health problems as well, such as high blood pressure, toxic goiter, osteoporosis, kidney disease, memory loss and loss of hearing and sight. Özkan is unable to take of his basic daily needs, so a cellmate assists him.

Signatories to the statement included bar associations of Adana, Batman, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Şırnak and Van; the Association of Civil Society in the Correctional System (CISST), the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) and the Foundation for Society and Legal Studies (TOHAV).

Images on social media of Özkan being taken to a hospital in handcuffs caused outrage among activists last month.

Özkan was sentenced to aggravated life for alleged membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was found responsible for the death of Brig. Gen. Bahtiyar Aydın in October 1993.

Özkan has denied any responsibility in the incident.

The charges against Özkan were based on two witness testimonies that were later recanted. In a 2014 indictment for what is known as the “Lice trial,” the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office said there was no tangible evidence that Özkan had ever taken part in terrorist activities. The trial concerned the alleged illegal activities of gendarmerie intelligence units known as JİTEM.

The PKK has been waging an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

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