Wife of jailed journalist with multiple health problems: We haven’t heard from him in 10 days

Çetin Çiftçi

The wife of imprisoned journalist Çetin Çiftçi, who suffers from multiple health problems, said she has not heard from her husband for 10 days and fears he is seriously ill, the Tr 724 news website reported.

Çiftçi has lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, according to his wife, Selda Çiftçi, and suffers from chronic stomach, abdominal and groin pain. He earlier had heart attacks and spasms in prison, resulting in three hospitalizations. He also had renal failure and high blood pressure, for which he had started to receive treatment. On top of that, he later tested positive for COVID-19 and was transferred to an isolated cell. Çiftçi’s wife said his treatment was delayed because of the pandemic and that his chronic symptoms have yet to be diagnosed.

Throughout his ordeal, his wife was kept in the dark by authorities as to the state of his health. “We cannot visit my husband because of the coronavirus pandemic, and we can barely speak on the phone. We have no idea about his condition, and we want him released so we can care for him and seek the necessary diagnoses and treatment,” she said.

“Çetin’s symptoms worry me, and I hope they do not delay the diagnoses further. I do not want to be like Esra Terzioğlu,” she said to Bold Medya, referring to the wife of Fatih Terzioğlu, 40, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer during his 21-month incarceration on terrorism charges and died in August following his release from prison in mid-July.

Çiftçi was arrested in September 2019 for alleged ties to the Gülen movement, a religious group inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. He was sentenced to six years, three months in prison.

The Turkish government accuses the movement of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Neither his condition nor his infection with COVID-19 persuaded the authorities to release him on early parole or put him under house arrest, benefits granted to many offenders convicted of non-political crimes.

Like tens of thousands of other political prisoners, Çiftçi was unable to benefit from a release bill enacted in mid-April to mitigate the pandemic’s spread in the country’s overcrowded prisons. Providing the possibility of early parole or house arrest to inmates, the bill explicitly excluded tens of thousands of political prisoners such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial and broadly interpreted counterterrorism laws.

In the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries. According to RSF the country is “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.”

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.

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