Disabled prisoners ‘left to die’ in Istanbul jail, says lawyer

Turkish officials have left three disabled prisons held in the same ward in Istanbul’s Metris Prison alone to die, lawyer Gülizar Tuncer told pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency on Saturday.

The health of Ergin Aktaş, who lost both his arms, Abdullah Turan, who is quadriplegic, and Serdal Yıldırım, who is paraplegic, is under threat and worsening behind bars, Tuncer said.

Aktaş has been given five reports by the Forensic Science Institute that he cannot survive prison conditions, and has developed further ailments including tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease during his time in prison, Tuncer said.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have both rejected appeals by Aktaş, citing sufficient conditions provided by the prison authorities.

The three prisoners are among turkey’s 1,333 known prisoners with chronic conditions, 457 of whom have severe conditions including various late-stage cancers.

Doctors in prisons do not have the necessary expertise to treat prisoners, and there are not enough doctors to begin with, Tuncer told Mezopotamya. Prisoners are referred to in-house treatment very late, and even more time passes as they appeal for referrals to hospitals, she said.

In hospitals, prisoners are treated while handcuffed to beds, and prison officers create prejudice in doctors as they speak to them before prisoners are able to. “Doctors are required to only see the previous medical records, but they are told that prisoners are ‘dangerous’, ‘at flight risk’, or ‘terrorists’,” she said.

 Some prisoners refuse the degrading treatment, and are thus unable to access healthcare at all.

Conditions have gotten worse for prisoners after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took hold in Turkey, according to the lawyer. Hospital visits have been further restricted, resulting in chronic patients not being provided with the regular care they need.

Tuncer spoke of prisoner Sabri Kaya, who was released in May “on the brink of death,” following several hospitalisations in the intensive care unit, and lost his life the same day.

Turkey has released thousands of prisoners with a recent reform bill that was passed as part of the country’s efforts to tackle the pandemic, but political prisoners were excluded completely. Tuncer said those convicted to life in prison without parole were also excluded, even those with severe conditions.

Prisoners have been subjected to intensified isolation policies, and had their communications restricted severely. Families who were allowed to visit were subjected to strip searches in a degrading manner, Tuncer said.

Tuncer called the prisons “centres for torture” that aimed to “sentence prisoners to death.”