Letter reveals how inmates with COVID-19 are neglected in Turkish prisons

A letter from an inmate in Turkey’s Sakarya Ferizli Prison has revealed that inmates with COVID-19 were made to stay in quarantine wards under poor conditions and were denied medicine for eight days after testing positive, the Bold Medya news website reported.

According to the inmate, whose name was not revealed for security reasons, 18 inmates tested positive on April 22, including some with chronic diseases. Three were hospitalized and 15 were placed in a total of five quarantine cells.

The virus allegedly spread in the prison after guards searched the wards without wearing face masks. Five guards later tested positive.

The inmate said the cells were filthy and that they weren’t given anything to clean them with. The panic buttons in the cells didn’t work, either.

“We told the [guard] all people here are sick, what are we going to do in case of an emergency?” the inmate said. “Don’t ask me anything the [guard] responded.”

According to the inmate’s account in the first days no doctors visited them and they were only given medicine eight days after they tested positive. “They only said ‘if anyone of you is in critical condition, we can take him to hospital’ in order to avoid responsibility.”

Turkish prisons have witnessed a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Halil Şimşek, a dismissed academic arrested over alleged links to the faith based Gülen movement, died in prison less than three months before he was due to be released on parole.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14, 2020 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation, which excludes political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws, prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

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