Makbule Özer, an ailing 80-year-old inmate in a high-security prison in eastern Van province, was taken to Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) for a medical examination on Wednesday, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
Özer’s lawyers had appealed to the prosecutor’s office for her release since her health problems have worsened and she’s unable to take care of herself. The prosecutor’s office requested a medical examination by the ATK to determine if she is fit to remain in prison.
Özer and her husband, Hadi Özer (78), were 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 to 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. However, her motion was denied by the court, and Özer was sent to a hospital for a health report.
Özer’s family and lawyer have expressed doubt about the ATK’s impartiality. Lawyer Dilan Kunt Ayan pointed out that the ATK had been issuing controversial reports recently and that many sick prisoners had to remain in prison.
Doubts over the independence and credibility of the ATK, an institution that assesses the condition of sick inmates to decide if they are fit to remain in prison and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, have grown in recent years as more and more critically ill prisoners have died behind bars.
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.