Turkey’s rights groups call for release of ailing 81-year-old prisoner

Abdulalim Kaya

Human rights groups in Turkey have urged the authorities to release Abdulalim Kaya, an 81-year-old inmate who is kept behind bars despite suffering from severe illness.

His son, İsmail Kaya, said his father’s condition was critical to the point that he was not even able to recognize relatives arriving for visits and that he could “die at any moment.”

Rights advocate Eren Keskin reacted on social media, saying, “81 years old, sick, and in prison! The height of cruelty.”

Suffering from kidney failure, dementia, high blood pressure and diabetes, Kaya is serving a five-year sentence on terrorism charges due to his attendance at a press conference in 2008 related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

Designated a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging a decades-long war against the state for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority.

While his sentence was initially postponed in January 2021 for health reasons due to an intervening surgery, he was ultimately rearrested in March 2023, and subsequent requests for the postponement of his sentence were rejected based on a Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) report that found him fit to remain in prison.

The ATK in recent years has drawn criticism for its questionable reports on sick prisoners, particularly in the cases of those incarcerated on politically motivated charges.

Human rights defenders such as forensic medicine expert Şebnem Korur Fincancı have accused the institution of lacking independence.

Every year, human rights NGOs report the death of dozens of sick prisoners either behind bars or shortly after their belated release, which typically comes at an advanced stage of their illness.

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