Inmate on hunger strike kept in unsanitary conditions in hospital, lawyers say

Sibel Balaç, an inmate in Ankara’s Sincan Prison who has been staging a hunger strike since December 2021, is being kept in unsanitary and poor conditions in the hospital she was transferred to, the Bianet news website reported.

According to the People’s Law Office (HHB), Balaç was transferred to a hospital in Ankara for a medical examination upon her lawyers’ request on September 6. She has lost another two kilograms since then and currently weighs only 39 kilos, a huge drop from her initial weight of 85 kilos. Her lawyers say Balaç’s deteriorating health has been further negatively affected by the poor conditions of her cell at the hospital.

“The cell is damp and poorly ventilated,” they said. “Our client has been experiencing numbness in her legs and feet and has sores in her mouth. It’s obvious she can’t stay in prison under these conditions.”

Balaç’s lawyers requested that the hospital issue the results of the medical examination as soon as possible so they could appeal for her release.

Balaç is a former teacher who participated in the Yüksel Street protests of 2018. She and other former public servants had been protesting human rights violations in Turkey and the purge of public servants after a 2016 coup attempt. They mainly gathered on Ankara’s Yüksel Street, in front of a human rights monument, to demand their jobs back.

The charges against Balaç still have not been disclosed.

The prison administration had imposed a 48-month visitation ban in August, so her family has not been able to visit Balaç. Her mother, Nuran Balaç, said she is extremely concerned about her daughter’s well-being.

The former teacher started her hunger strike in prison in December together with another detainee, Gökhan Yıldırım, to demand fair trials.

They also demanded the release of critically ill prisoners and an end to arbitrary disciplinary punishments in prison. The two inmates further requested unlimited access to books and magazines.

Yıldırım ended his hunger strike after 255 days on September 6, when he was released from prison.

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