Jailed Turkish journalist Şahin Alpay: My health is getting worse

Jailed veteran journalist Şahin Alpay.

Şahin Alpay, a jailed veteran journalist and columnist of now-closed Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, has said in letter sent from notorious Silivri Prison that “My health was not good when I entered Silivri (Prison), it gets worse after 15 months.”

Şahin Alpay, who has been in jail more than 15 months, shared a letter he sent from Silivri Prison via P24 website and informed his readers and friends about his deteriorating health condition. “My age is very old. Since I have many chronic diseases and my health is getting worse, I have no hope to live for many years. I expect the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court or Constitutional Court to decide as soon as possible to make me spend the remaining years with my wife, children and grandchildren without a trial.”

The full text of Şahin Alpay’s letter is as follows:

On November 16, I was taken to the cardiology examination for the first time. After the examination and effort test, I was told that I should have an angio without delaying.

I guess that my friends, students and readers are curious about my health. I would like to share my health condition in my 4th open letter sent from Silivri Prison.

When I was detained on July 27, 2016, arrested on July 30, 2016 and sent to prison, my health condition was as follows:

  • I have been suffering from chronic herniated disk since 1986. I refused to be operated on and I am doing belly gymnastics every day for over 30 years to keep standing; I take care of myself while sitting or standing.
  • I have been sleeping with a respiratory device (CPAP) since I was diagnosed with sleep apnea about 20 years ago. Thankfully, my wife gave the device on my hand when I was taken into custody, and fortunately no problem was created for that in Silivri Prison.
  • I have been having a high blood pressure for about 20 years, so I use two pills every day (Delix Protect and Fludex SR). All medicines are covered by the prison.
  • About ten years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes at the upper limit and started using a pill every day (Glucofage).
  • Again for about 10 years, I have been using medication (Crestor 20 mg) for 3 days a week due to high cholesterol. I have been taking another medicine (Uricoliz) 3 days a week due to high uric acid for the same duration.
  • Approximately 10 years ago, I had fatty liver after diagnosis. Unfortunately, I could not get away.
  • I have a prostate enlargement problem for over a decade. Biopsy was made in 2009 with suspicion of cancer. In the spring of 2016, the MRI was taken. Thank goodness the results turned out to be negative. Ever since the last examination I have been taking Avodart pills.
  • Ten years ago, double nodules were detected in one of my thyroid glands. Every year, and lastly in the summer of 2017 in Silivri State Hospital, I was examined ultrasonically and no abnormality was seen.
  • A narrowing (30%) was seen in my neck arteries going to the brain about 5 years ago. No progress has been seen in ultrasonic examination at Silivri State Hospital. In the same year MRI examination, calcification started to appear in my heart artery. I was recommended to walk every day. I take care of that. I walked in Silivri Prison almost an hour a day in the courtyard of the prison with no skip.
  • Again, a mass / cyst on the skull was seen in the MRI examination that year. Since it was out of the skull, no intervention was needed. But I am regretful that I did not have it removed, because it is getting bigger.
  • In the spring of 2016, I had colonoscopy and endoscopy for the 4th time. This time there was no polyps in the colon, but after diagnosis colitis were found in the intestines and gastritis was found in the stomach; internal hemorrhage was seen. I use Nexium (20 mg) pill for 3 days a week to protect the stomach.
  • I went for check up for a skin spot on my back about 15 years ago almost every year. Needle biopsy was recommended at Silivri State Hospital. When it didn’t respond to the treatment, it was suggested to remove all the part. I preferred to wait, because a lot of care would be so difficult in the prison, hoping that one day I would be evacuated.
  • Last May, I had a boil in my leg. When it didn’t respond to the treatment, I was operated at Silivri State Hospital. It was said that the removed cyst was a benign cyst.
  • I have been wearing glasses for about 60 years. Eye doctor told me in September 2016 that cataract surgery might be needed. Eye doctors in Silivri did not find surgery necessary yet; they said they could not see the yellowish dot. They did not changed my eyeglasses powers (near and far); but I feel that my eyes are getting tired.
  • I have been using eye drops for over 5 years due to excessive dryness in my eyes.
  • About 5 years ago, I had a hearing loss of 30-35 percent in my ears and started using hearing aids.
  • Since the day I entered prison I have been using anti-depressant pill (cipralex) with the recommendation of a psychiatrist. I reaped the benefit of it too much.
  • A few months ago an itchy red spot appeared in my nose. I was healed after using the ointment with the recommendation of the dermatologist who diagnosed my disease as Rosa disease.
  • I was taken to the cardiology examination for the first time in Silivri State Hospital on November 16, 2017. After the examination and effort test, I was told that I should have an angio without delaying. I was able to easily walk for an hour a day until a couple months ago. I can not exceed 30 minutes now. Apparently, there have been negative developments in my heart arteries.

As a 73-year-old who has lived a very stressful life, you can see the health statement I mentioned in detail above. But life in this prison is not easy. My health was not good when I entered Silivri Prison, it gets worse after 15 months.

Immediately after my arrest, my lawyers applied to the Constitutional Court to be evicted because of my old age and chronic illnesses. But the application was rejected without waiting. I have not received a reply for 15 months for another application I sent due to my freedoms being restricted. European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to review immediately my application I sent on the same ground on March 8, 2017. The demand of the Ministry of Justice for the extension of the response time to the ECtHR’s questions was finally rejected on November 8, 2017. It is not known when the ECtHR will decide.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which I am being tried on, sent me to the Forensic Medicine Institute for the first time in the period of September 18-19, 2017 to confirm that my health condition is not suitable for being in prison.

About a month later, the Forensic Medicine Institute sent a letter to the court on October 13, 2017 asking that I should be referred to a fully equipped general or university hospital. The transfer of this article of Forensic Medicine to Silivri Prison took a long time. Finally, I entered the health board of Silivri State Hospital on November 10, 2017.

There was no cardiologist on board. Due to urology ultrasound examination and ENT hearing test were not urgent demands, it was said that the completion of the report will arrive February 2018, which is 6 months since the request. Therefore, the decision of Forensic Medicine will not be ready for the 2nd trial to be held on December 8, 2017, it will be announced after months.

I have no guilt. In the light of the current Criminal Code and the Court of Cassation’s current case-law, claims of ‘coup plotter’ or ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ cannot be used for me. I will be acquitted at the end of the trial. The only mistake I made was to believe that the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee freedom of expression and opposition in Turkey.

My age is very old. Since I have many chronic diseases and my health is getting worse, I have no hope to live for many years. As soon as possible, I expect the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court or Constitutional Court to decide to make me spend the remaining years with my wife, children and grandchildren without a trial.

That was a pretty boring letter. But I wanted you to know my situation.

With my love and greetings.

Şahin Alpay

Silivri Closed Penal Execution Institution / Section 9, Block A, Room 1

November 20, 2017″

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of November 21, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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