Ailing inmate not released despite eligibility for judicial supervision

Kamil Acar, a 58-year-old prisoner suffering from severe health problems, is not being released despite the fact that he has been eligible for release under judicial supervision since September, Bold Medya reported.

Acar, who has been imprisoned in the Turkish province of Balıkesir since September 2016 for alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, has been suffering from kidney failure for four years and heart disease for three. Acar has been told by his doctors that he is unfit to remain in prison due to his illnesses.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Acar was dismissed from his job by a government decree after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. He was sentenced to nine years, two months in prison for having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya and for using the ByLock cell phone messaging application.

ByLock is an encrypted messaging app used on smartphones and was available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Turkish authorities claim that ByLock was a communication tool exclusively used by members of the Gülen movement.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu spoke in parliament about Acar’s situation in September, saying, “Although he is critically ill, he has not been released under judicial supervision. He is just another victim among thousands.”

According to the Turkish Penal Code, he should have been released under judicial supervision in September. However, Acar remains in prison without any explanation from the prison administration.

According to the doctors’ diagnosis, Acar, who had no illnesses before his arrest, suffered severe kidney damage due to the extreme cold he was exposed to during his transfer from Uşak province to a prison in Balıkesir in January 2017. Acar passed out in the prison vehicle from the extreme cold and was then hospitalized.

While Acar’s kidney condition worsened, he also developed heart disease, forcing him to undergo cardiac surgery in September 2020. Acar, who remained in the hospital for 10 days, was not allowed to receive visitors.

Acar’s son, Hasan Acar, said during his last visit that his father’s health was visibly impaired. Acar’s family expressed fears that his condition would deteriorate further if he remained in prison.

Speaking to Bold Medya, Hasan Acar said, “His kidney is still bleeding right now. The prison doctor said, ‘It will continue to worsen in prison in the cold.’ During our last visit, his mental and physical condition seemed poor. We fear his health will deteriorate further.”

Critics have slammed Turkish authorities for refusing to release critically ill prisoners. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu previously said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Association (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.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in July 2021 in the case of former police officer Tekin Akgün that the use of the ByLock application is not an offense in itself and does not constitute sufficient evidence for an arrest. The Strasbourg court’s ruling came as a source of hope for thousands of people who were arrested or sentenced on terrorism charges based mainly on a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) report that detailed users of ByLock. However, detentions and arrests based on ByLock use continued unabated in Turkey.

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