83-year-old ailing Kurdish woman incarcerated again after ATK finds her ‘fit to remain in prison’

Makbule Özer, an ailing 83-year-old Kurdish woman, was jailed for a second time on Monday after a medical report issued by Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) said she was fit to remain in prison, the Bianet news website reported.

Özer is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), She was first arrested in May 2022 along with her husband, 79-year-old Hadi Özer, but was released for medical reasons in September 2022. However, the ATK found her to be fit in a new report issued in November 2023.

“There are no words left to say. How can a sick, 83-year-old woman pose a threat? It’s a political move to further pressure the Kurds.” said Özer’s son, Medeni Özer.

“My mother was given a 61 percent disability report at the regional hospital. We sent the report to the prosecutor’s office. Then we took my mother to [the Council of] Forensic Medicine. The ATK decided that it was appropriate for her to stay in prison. Even when we took her to the courthouse today, we took her in a wheelchair. My mother is now in a situation where she can’t meet her own needs. Last year she could get up and get a glass of water, but now she can’t even do that. We carry our mother on our backs. The lawlessness we face is beyond belief. The whole world has seen what kind of situation my mother is in. We want this unlawfulness to end now,” said Naime Özer, the woman’s daughter after the release of the medical report on November 30, 2023.

Özer and her husband’s arrest in May 2022 had sparked public outrage, with several opposition politicians demanding their immediate release.

Özer’s lawyers had appealed to the prosecutor’s office for her release since her health problems had worsened and she was unable to take care of herself. The ailing woman suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, among other things. After the appeal, the prosecutor’s office requested a medical examination by the ATK to determine if she was fit to remain in prison.

The ATK frequently comes under criticism over its questionable reports that find ailing inmates fit to remain in prison. Rights advocates slam the agency over its lack of independence from political influence and its role in compounding the persecution of political prisoners.

Every year, rights groups report the death of dozens of sick prisoners, either while behind bars or shortly after their belated release, which often comes at the end-stage of their illnesses.

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