Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş has called for the immediate release of ailing prisoners, citing the cases of Halil Güneş, Nusret Muğla and Vural Avar, who were all denied release to seek medical treatment and died in their cells.
“Each death in prison is a murder [by the authorities],” Demirtaş said in a tweet.
Turkey has kept Demirtaş behind bars since November 2016 despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that called for his immediate release in 2018 and December 2020 as part of another case.
Most recently, Vural Avar, 85, a retired general who was imprisoned last year due to his role in a military intervention in Turkey in 1997, known as the Feb. 28 post-modern coup, died in his sleep in Ankara’s Sincan Prison.
According to local journalist, Avar was issued a medical report that said he was healthy and fit to remain in prison 22 days before his demise on December 20.
Halil Güneş, 49, who was suffering from end-stage lung cancer, died in December 2021 in southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakır province after being denied release from prison to seek proper treatment.
Nusret Muğla, an 84-year-old ailing man who was serving a sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, passed away in February after contracting COVID-19 in prison.
Turkish authorities have denied political prisoners, even those with critical illnesses, release from prison so they can at least seek proper medical treatment. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing ill prisoners.
According to recent reports, sick prisoners in Turkey are not released until they are at the point of no return and do not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics. Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu also recently stated that there were close to 1,600 sick prisoners in Turkey, of whom 600 were seriously ill.
The Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers’ Deputies in September called on Turkey’s Constitutional Court to expeditiously examine an application from Demirtaş concerning his ongoing detention in a manner compatible with earlier judgments of the ECtHR.
Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.