Ailing 73-year-old found dead in his prison cell in Turkey’s Ordu province

A 73-year-old sick prisoner was found dead in his cell on Wednesday in a prison in northern Ordu province, drawing attention once again to critically ill inmates in Turkish prisons, Turkish media reported.

Hasan Basri Ç., who was serving a life sentence, suffered from heart disease and prostate cancer. His cellmates tried to wake him up Wednesday morning, but he failed to respond. Alerting the guards, Ç.’s cellmates called for help. Paramedics who arrived at the prison declared the man dead.

Ç.’s body was taken to the morgue for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, and the prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into his passing.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return.

Sick inmates have complained of neglect and poor conditions, saying they could not receive prescribed medication or follow special diets. Many inmates complained they were not taken to the hospital on time, and urgent surgeries were delayed for months. Even if they were taken to the hospital, prisoners are made to undergo physical examinations in handcuffs and in the presence of guards. Female inmates reportedly have had gynecological examinations in the presence of male guards.

Moreover, prison cells, and especially quarantine cells, have become notorious for being unsanitary, cold and bug infested.

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.

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