Family pleads with Turkish authorities to release critically ill inmate 

The wife of a critically ill inmate has pleaded with Turkish authorities for the immediate release of her husband to seek proper medical treatment, the Aktif Haber news website reported.

In a video posted on social media Hatice Çiftçi said her husband, Mustafa Çiftçi, who is currently serving a sentence on conviction of “terrorist organization membership,” was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

“My husband presented with symptoms seven months ago, but was only recently diagnosed,” she said, adding, “He has lost a lot of weight; he can barely walk and has shortness of breath.” According to Hatice Çiftçi, her husband cannot take care of himself and or eat solid foods and as a result is fed pureed meals. 

Hatice Çiftçi said her husband’s disease had progressed considerably in prison because he was not referred to a hospital in a timely manner. Moreover, Çiftçi had to travel to a hospital situated far from the prison, which had been taxing on his health.

Citing these reasons, Çiftçi had asked that his sentence be postponed, but Turkish authorities denied the request. 

Çiftçi was accused of alleged links to the Gülen movement and sentenced to almost nine years in prison. He had been working at a private school affiliated with the movement as an accountant and has been held in Ankara’s Sincan Prison since 2021. 

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. They intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt that they accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

As of December 2022, there are at least 1,517 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, 651 of whom are seriously ill, according to a report from Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD). The report said 39 of 76 inmates who died in prison in 2022 were critically ill.

Sick prisoners’ health have been observed to deteriorate drastically due to poor prison conditions. 

According to the law, the sentence of a prisoner who, due to a serious illness or disability, is unable to manage life on their own under prison conditions and who is not considered a danger to society may be suspended until they recover.

However, the decision to suspend sentences is not implemented for many political prisoners.

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.

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