Jailed former judge who underwent major surgery not released despite eligibility for parole

Dismissed judge Mustafa Başer, an inmate who is suffering from cancer and underwent major surgery on Tuesday, is not being released from prison despite the fact that he has been eligible for release on parole since September 2021, when he completed the mandatory time served, the Kronos news website reported.

Başer’s son, lawyer İskender Başer, tweeted, “My father, former judge Mustafa Başer, has been eligible for release since September 27, 2021. However, he has not been released yet without any justification. He was diagnosed with a tumor in his bladder. He underwent surgery for the third time since November 2019. ”

Referring to the September 2022 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that Başer’s rights had been violated, İskender Başer said, “Despite this [ECtHR] decision and the fact that he is eligible for release, it is against the law that he continues to be held in prison with such a serious illness.”

The ECtHR ruled in the case of Başer and Özçelik v. Türkiye that the pretrial detention of former judges Başer and Metin Özçelik was unlawful and lacked reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed, saying that Turkey must pay 5,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages to the applicants.

In April 2015 Başer and Özçelik unsuccessfully ruled for the release of 75 people, including Hidayet Karaca, the head of the now-closed opposition broadcaster Samanyolu TV, and police officers involved in a 2013 corruption investigation into relatives of cabinet members of then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In 2017 the judges were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for their alleged links to the Gülen movement, abusing their judicial power and allegedly obeying Fethullah Gülen’s orders to release the defendants. They had been imprisoned since May 2015 and were suspended from their posts by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

Turkish President Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

İskender Başer also said his father’s health had deteriorated dramatically after this uncertain and long process and that he is unable to care for himself in prison, demanding his immediate release.

Critics have slammed Turkish authorities for refusing to release critically ill prisoners. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu previously said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.

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.

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