Inmate suffering from cancer dies in prison despite appeals for early release

Hayrettin Yılmaz, 65, who passed away on Sunday, is the latest inmate to die from cancer in prison after being denied release to seek proper medical treatment despite several appeals from human rights associations and family members.

According to the Duvar news website, Yılmaz suffered from lung cancer, ulcers, thyroid problems and gastritis and was granted treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He requested parole, citing his health problems and that he had served most of his sentence. Yılmaz, who had been arrested in 2011, had only one year left to complete his prison sentence.

Several activists brought Yılmaz’s suffering to public attention before his death. The Human Rights Association (İHD) had asked for Yılmaz’s release on Saturday. Fatin Kanat from İHD had pointed out that although Yılmaz had been diagnosed with cancer and doctors had requested his hospitalization, he was transferred between prisons before the pandemic instead of being hospitalized.

Speaking to Duvar, Yılmaz’s son Berav Yılmaz said the last time he visited prison, his father could barely breathe or talk. He added that they called the prison administration every day to plead for his father’s release. “He should have been released to recover, he was nearly at the end of his sentence, anyway, but they said it was against prison procedure,” said Berav Yılmaz.

According to Berav Yılmaz, the prison administration called him on Friday and said they had finally decided to review his father’s situation and decide if he could benefit from parole. He said the prison administration told them to be “thankful” for this step.

“My father’s lifeless body was released from prison, what am I supposed to be thankful for?” he asked.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing party with majority-Kurdish support, criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners until it is too late for them to receive effective treatment.

“They refuse to release the prisoners until it comes to the point of no return. They only release the prisoners when they realize they will die soon, not wanting them to die in prison,” he said.

He claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

According to the most recent statistics published by the Human Rights Association (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.

A number of critically ill prisoners passed away in 2020 because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.

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