Turkish prison launches disciplinary investigation into inmates for refusing to eat

Sincan prison in Ankara

A prison administration in Ankara province has launched a disciplinary investigation into 39 female inmates for refusing to eat meals for three days to protest the death of a sick prisoner, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Monday.

Sincan Prison, one of the major penitentiaries housing Turkey’s political prisoners, has given the inmates three days to make their defense statements.

The protest concerned the death of Şakir Turan, a 70-year-old cancer patient who died behind bars in an Erzincan prison. The protesters had petitioned the authorities beforehand, informing them that they would refuse to eat for three days. They also petitioned the Ministry of Justice and the parliament, stating that their aim was to raise awareness about the situation of sick prisoners in Turkey.

In recent years Turkish authorities have denied release to dozens of ailing prisoners, particularly those incarcerated as a result of politically charged trials. Many prisoners have died either behind bars or shortly after their belated release, which usually came at the final stage of their illness.

Reports on prison conditions in the country indicate systematic neglect in the face of prisoners’ health issues, such as the denial of hospital referrals and failure to deliver medication and specific meals prescribed by doctors.

Turkey’s prisons are also notorious for being overcrowded and unhygienic. A Council of Europe report found that Turkey had the highest incarceration rate among member states in 2020, with 357 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants. The report also indicated that the country had the most crowded prisons in Europe, with 127 inmates per 100 available places as of January 2020.

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