Hospital finds 78-year-old ailing Kurdish woman ‘fit to remain in prison’

Hanife Arslan

A hospital in eastern Turkey has issued a report which said that Hanife Arslan, a 78-year-old woman suffering from several chronic health problems, is fit to remain behind bars, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

Incarcerated in the province of Van, Arslan is suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

She was jailed in 2022 after her prison sentence of more than six years on terrorism-related charges was upheld.

She was put on trial over her activism for a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions, according to family members who spoke to the media.

“We are worried about her,” her daughter Reyhan Ören said after visiting Arslan in prison on January 29. “Her diseases get worse every day. She needs to be released.”

Lawyer Mehmet Salih Coşkun from the Human Rights Association (İHD) said, “We hope to receive a report from the Council of Forensic Medicine [ATK] that she cannot remain in prison.

“Every year, we at the İHD work with sick inmates and prepare lists. Last year, 213 of those we listed got released, while eight passed away,” Coşkun said. “The number of those who are kept behind bars are three times the number of those released. We are working to raise awareness and ensure their release as well.”

The ATK frequently comes under criticism over its questionable reports that find ailing inmates fit to remain in prison. Rights advocates slam the agency over its lack of independence from political influence and its role in compounding the persecution of political prisoners.

Every year, rights groups report the death of dozens of sick prisoners, either while behind bars or shortly after their belated release, which often comes at the end-stage of their illnesses.

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