Severely sick Turkish journalist Balta not allowed to meet his family in prison

The veteran Turkish journalist Halil İbrahim Balta, who was arrested and put behind the bars after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, has reportedly overcome two serious life-critical health problems in last 15 days, however he was not allowed to meet his family.

“Having been detained for 17 months, journalist Balta is not released despite of his vital health problems,” wrote the online news outlet Kronos on Wednesday.

According to the report, journalist Balta had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery at Silivri State Hospital on December 7, 2017. His family was not informed about Balta’s health situation and they came to know that one of his roommates in prison informed his wife on the open visit.

As soon as the family and relatives of Balta heard the news, they had no way of seeing him when they went to the hospital in Silivri district of İstanbul. The application they made for seeing him to the prosecutor’s office reportedly gave no result.

It was also reported that journalist Balta’s post-operation prisoner’s ward at the hospital was on the basement and near the morgue. And just 4 days after the operation, he was transferred back to prison again.

It was learned that Balta said he did not feel good, and had pain in his stomach and his head during open visit on December 11, 2017. Balta, who had gastric bleeding two days after the open visit done by his family, was hospitalised by prison authorities. However, his family could have been informed about after 5 days through his friend who shared his health conditions with his visiting family. Despite his family and his relatives running to the hospital, they were not allowed to meet journalist Halil İbrahim Balta, who was still under custody.

It is learned that Journalist Balta has lost 30 kg in last 6 months, and his imprisonment would be life-threatening in the tough prison conditions.

In a 196 page indictment, prepared by Murat Çağlak, there is not a single incident of terrorist activity on the part of any of the journalists, including Halil İbrahim Balta, as they are basically being charged for their articles, news and critical messages on Twitter.

Journalist Balta has been charged in the indictment as being a member of a terrorist organization, namely the civic Gülen movement on the basis of retweeting 4 tweets of whistle blower account Fuat Avni, 4 tweets, 2 Retweets, having 18 books written by Fethullah Gülen, a book about Gülen written by an American writer, CDs about Gülen, having a bank account at Bank Asya. Balta faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 248 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 19, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 221 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 139 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.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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