Turkish Twitter users called on authorities on Tuesday to release Mehmet Emin Özkan, an 83-year-old inmate who suffers from severe health problems, the Bianet news website reported.
Hundreds of social media users shared the hashtag “#MehmetEminÖzkanıSerbestBırakın” (Release Mehmet Emin Özkan) ahead of a retrial, scheduled to begin on September 15.
Opposition deputies including Sezgin Tanrıkulu from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) took part in the campaign.
— Sezgin Tanrıkulu (@MSTanrikulu) August 31, 2021
Özkan, who has been in prison for the past 25 years, has suffered four heart attacks. He has other health problems as well, such as high blood pressure, toxic goiter, osteoporosis, kidney disease, memory loss and loss of hearing and sight. He is unable to take care of his basic daily needs, so a cellmate assists him.
Images on social media of Özkan being taken to a hospital in handcuffs had caused outrage among activists.
Özkan was sentenced to aggravated life for alleged membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was found responsible for the death of Brig. Gen. Bahtiyar Aydın in October 1993.
Özkan denies any responsibility in the incident, and a court in May decided on his retrial.
The charges against Özkan were based on two witness testimonies that were later recanted. In a 2014 indictment for what is known as the “Lice trial,” the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office said there was no tangible evidence that Özkan had ever taken part in terrorist activities. The trial concerned the alleged illegal activities of gendarmerie intelligence units known as JİTEM.
The PKK has been waging an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.