CHP lawmaker calls on Turkish authorities to be more merciful to sick prisoners

CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu has called on Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) and the Ministry of Justice to be more merciful to sick prisoners and mothers with babies, the Cumhuriyet daily reported. 

Tanrıkulu visited 78-year-old inmate Halil Karakoç on Saturday in İzmir’s Menemen Prison, convicted of alleged links to the Gülen movement. After the visit Tanrıkulu said Karakoç should be released immediately. “He has heart disease, diabetes and prostate problems, and his legs are in such bad shape that he can barely walk,” he added.

Karakoç was taken to the ATK to determine if he was fit to remain in prison. According to the council he could stay in the prison infirmary and was denied release.

Karakoç, a retired imam. was arrested in December 2020 and sentenced to seven years, six months in prison. He was accused of having a bank account in the now-closed Banka Asya, which was linked to the Gülen movement. He was also accused of attending events organized by movement members.

The Gülen movement is a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose followers have been targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Tanrıkulu also pointed out that there were close to 1,600 sick prisoners in Turkey, 600 of whom were seriously ill. He called on the ATK to follow medical ethics and be more conscientious in their reports as they could cause the death of ailing inmates. He demanded that the Justice Ministry stop the punitive practices employed against political prisoners.

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.

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