Ailing 80-year-old inmate released from prison after 4 months

Makbule Özer

Makbule Özer, an ailing 80-year-old inmate in a high-security prison in Turkey’s eastern Van province, was released from prison on Wednesday, Turkish media reported.

Özer’s lawyers had recently appealed to the prosecutor’s office for her release, saying that due to her old age and health problems she was not fit to remain in prison. Özer was taken to Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) for a medical examination on August 24.

After the examination, the ATK decided to postpone Özer’s prison sentence for one year because her health had worsened and she was found to be unable to care of herself in prison.

“My only wish is that all sick and elderly prisoners, including my husband Hadi Özer, and all innocent people be released as soon as possible. I wish peace for all of us,” Özer said after her release. Özer also said she was grateful that the public had expressed solidarity with her and pressed for her release since the first day of her arrest. “This solidarity should now be extended to other prisoners,” she added.

Özer and her husband were arrested on May 9 and sentenced to two years, six months in prison for conviction of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The elderly couple’s arrest sparked public outrage, and several opposition politicians demanded their immediate release.

Makbule Özer was hospitalized on July 2 due to her health problems. Speaking to her family on the telephone, Özer said she could barely walk and suffered from multiple afflictions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. “My cellmates are taking care of me as best they can, but I am constantly in the prison infirmary,” she said. “I can’t stay in prison long-term this way. I could die here!”

She requested that she be released from prison and put under house arrest, saying she was not fit to stay in prison and that the conditions there had negatively affected her already poor health.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Foundation (İHD), the number of sick prisoners is in the thousands, more than 600 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.

A number of critically ill prisoners passed away in 2020 because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment. Three critically sick inmates died in the first three months of this year in prison.

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