Top court finds rights violation in denying a prisoner permission to attend relative’s funeral

The main building of Turkey's Constitutional Court.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that denying a prisoner permission to attend his mother’s funeral violates “the right to respect for private and family life,” Turkish media reported.

According to the ruling, published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, Ahmet Bayanmelek, who is incarcerated in Turkey’s southern Kahramanmaraş province, had requested permission to attend his mother’s funeral on September 4, 2019 and was turned down by the prison administration.

Bayanmelek filed a complaint with the Kahramanmaraş Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which decided not to pursue the case due to “security reasons.”

After the decision was announced, Bayanmelek submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court, claiming that his rights had been violated.

The top court ruled that the right to respect for private and family life guaranteed in Article 20 of the constitution had been violated and ordered that Bayanmelek be paid 13,000 Turkish lira ($1,250) in non-pecuniary damages.

The decision indicated that the authorities should exercise the diligence expected of them in completing the request. “If it is deemed impossible to comply with the request, security risks associated with this situation should be explained on the basis of concrete facts and events,” the top court said.

“The reasoning presented in the decision of the chief public prosecutor’s office is not convincing, relevant or sufficient to strike a fair balance between the interests of the applicant and the interests of society. In the present case, the applicant was deprived of the opportunity to support his family by attending a funeral, as the authorities interfered with his private life and his family by rejecting the application. It was found that the right to respect for life was violated,” the court said.

Bayanmelek was arrested in 2017 in the eastern Turkish province of Elazığ due his alleged links to the Gülen movement and was sentenced to six years in prison

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah 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..

Recently, former police chief Yakup Saygılı, who led the corruption investigations in 2013 and is also imprisoned on alleged affiliation with the movement, requested permission to attend his father’s funeral, which was denied by the prison administration without explanation.

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