Critically ill prisoner convicted on Gezi charges hospitalized amid calls for his release

Ekim Polat, 24, a critically ill prisoner who was convicted of taking part in the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, was hospitalized on Tuesday amid calls for his immediate release.

Polat’s mother, Songül Polat, announced the news on Twitter, saying her son was taken to the hospital in handcuffs and without the notification of his family. “I would not have found out about his hospitalization had I not gone to the prison to visit him,” she said.

Polat suffers from acromegaly, a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone, which leads to abnormally large hands and feet among other symptoms. He also has a brain tumor and needs surgery. Twice, while in prison, Polat suffered heart attacks.

“My son’s internal organs have been greatly damaged due to his disease. He needs proper care, nutritious food and someone to help him take his medicine on time,” Songül Polat said. “We can’t be sure any of these things are taken care of in prison. He often doesn’t receive his medicine and is made to eat whatever is available.”

Despite pleas and calls from his mother, authorities have refused to release Polat so can seek proper treatment. In protest, Polat started a hunger strike, now in its 38th day

The young man was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 24 years in prison. He has been transferred to many different prisons but is currently incarcerated in western Denizli province.

Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) has issued several medical reports saying Polat is fit to remain in prison, but his family has argued against the validity of these reports.

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.

Turkish authorities have denied political prisoners, even those with critical illnesses, release from prison so they can at least seek proper treatment. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners.

Lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return. He claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu also recently stated that there were close to 1,600 sick prisoners in Turkey, of whom 600 were seriously ill. He addressed the ATK and asked them to follow the ethical rules of medicine and be more conscientious when issuing reports as it could cause the death of ailing inmates.

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