80-year-old Kurdish inmate dies of cancer in Turkish prison

Kurdish inmate Abdo Baran, 80, who was suffering from end-stage colon cancer, died on Thursday in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin province after being denied release from prison to seek proper treatment.

Baran’s death was announced on Twitter by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who expressed outrage that the ailing old man had not been released. “This is completely inhumane!” he said. “I have no words left to say. This old man died handcuffed to bed rails. He has been in prison for the last 25 years.”

Baran had been in the hospital for the past seven months. He was issued a report by a hospital saying he was not fit to go back to prison and should immediately be released. However, prison authorities were waiting for the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) to issue a similar report.

Despite the passage of three months, the ATK still had not issued a report by the time of Baran’s death.

As the number of sick prisoners dying in prison has increased, doubts about the credibility and independence of the council have grown, as the institution is affiliated with the Ministry of Justice.

In a previous statement Gergerlioğlu had urged authorities to immediately release Baran, saying he could die soon. He criticized the ATK for taking too long in issuing a report and accused them of not taking the situation seriously.

Baran had been serving an aggravated life sentence for attempting to destroy the territorial integrity of the country.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.

Baran was the third political prisoner to die of cancer in the first three months of this year, along with 83-year-old Yusuf Bekmezci and 84-year-old Nusret Muğla.

According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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