Jailed 73-year-old Turkish journalist pleads to be freed on health grounds

Jailed 73-year-old Turkish journalist Şahin Alpay said his health is deteriorating every day he spends in a maximum security prison outside Istanbul.

The political scientist and former columnist for the Zaman newspaper has been held at Silivri Prison since last year on charges related to the July 15 failed coup, blamed on Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen. Zaman was owned by followers of Gülen.

Alpay was arrested on July 31 last year and faces a possible three life sentences on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, parliament and the constitutional order. He also faces a prison term of up to 15 years on charges being a member of terrorist group.

The only evidence presented against Alpay is his writing and published opinions. At the first hearing of his trial on Sept. 18, Alpay described himself as a “true liberal” and rejected the charges on the indictment.

In an open letter published on the website of Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) on Wednesday, Alpay said he suffered from a range of health conditions.

The host of conditions for which Alpay said he had been treated or currently uses medication includes spinal hernia, sleep apnoea for which he uses a breathing device, high cholesterol, high uric acid, fatty liver disease, benign enlargement of the prostate, excess nodules in thyroid glands, a narrowing of the arteries in the neck, a cyst located outside his skull, colitis of the colon, gastritis, internal haemorrhoids, eye-related problems and hearing loss.

He also said he was also taking anti-depressants, prescribed by the prison psychiatrist, which he said were very helpful. 

But he said he was told he needed to have an angiogram by doctors who performed a cardiology examination on him at Silivri State Hospital on Nov. 16.

“Only a few months ago, I could continue my walks of an hour a day with ease. Now, I can’t do more than 30 minutes. It appears that some negative developments have taken place in my coronary arteries,” he wrote.

“I wasn’t in good health when I entered Silivri, and now after 15 months, it is getting worse.”

He said his applications to the Constitutional Court demanding his release due to health reasons had been rejected. He said he had also made an application to the European Court of Human Rights, but said it was not clear when the court would rule on his case.

“The only mistake I’ve ever made was to believe that the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights placed free speech in Turkey under guarantee,” he wrote.

He concluded his letter saying: “My age is rather advanced. I don’t hope to live for many years given that I have several chronic diseases and that my health is increasingly getting worse. I expect first the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, if not that court then the Constitutional Court, to make it possible for me to live out the rest of my life with my wife, children and grandchildren by releasing me on bail.”