The main Istanbul office of the Forensic Medicine Institute of Turkey (ATK) has issued a report for Aysel Tuğluk, the former co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and deputy chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), saying, “She can live her life alone.” In line with the report, the Kocaeli office of the State Prosecution also rejected the request made by Tuğluk’s lawyers for her release.
Aysel Tuğluk has been imprisoned for about five years. She was arrested along with seven other politicians on 29 December 2016, when she was deputy co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Reyhan Yalçındağ, one of Tuğluk lawyers answered the questions of Yeni Ozgur Politika about the situation of Tuğluk. Yalçındağ warned the authorities that every hour is important for Tuğluk’s disease and she should be released immediately.
To start with, can you give us some information about the trial against your client?
First of all, if we are talking about the extremely serious health conditions of Mrs. Aysel Tugluk today, it is closely related to her being unfairly held in prison due to political reasons. Like other HDP and DBP politicians, Mrs. Tuğluk was tried for her democratic and legal work and her efforts for solving the Kurdish question. Also, due to press releases and some interviews during her time as DTK co-chair, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Ankara 17 Criminal Court.
It should be noted that, during Mrs. Tuğluk’s time as both MP and DTK co-chair, the DTK was officially invited to the Constitutional Commission meetings by the President of the Parliament. Her written opinions about changes to the constitution were asked, and she is one of the Kurdish politicians who was stripped of her freedom because the political atmosphere has changed.
After the prison sentence was given to Mrs. Tuğluk, we applied to the Constitutional Court in March 2020, but as with other HDP applications, the Constitutional Court has not made a decision so far.
In addition, Mrs. Tuğluk has also been charged for the Kobani Protests.
What health problems does your client have? What was the response of the officials to your applications regarding her health problems?
Again, the public will remember that, like many politicians who have lost their relatives, she lost her mother while in prison. She was racially attacked in the cemetery and her mother’s body was taken from where she was buried and taken to Dersim. I was there for her when all this happened, and it was one of those moments where we said, “End of the world.”
Mrs. Tugluk began to get sick earlier this year due to prison conditions and her first diagnosis was given by Seka State Hospital. Although we demanded her immediate release, it was not accepted and we applied for the ATK process.
So what was the response of the ATK to your application?
As a result of four months of examinations, tests, etc, Kocaeli ATK unanimously stated that it is not appropriate for Mrs. Tugluk to stay in prison and that the execution of her sentence should be postponed. It stated that her treatment cannot be sustained from prison because her disease is chronic and progresses in time.
However, the main Istanbul office of the ATK has issued a report for Aysel Tuğluk which says exactly the opposite. The report issued for Tuğluk said: “She can live her life alone and be kept in prison conditions if she is provided with treatment and regular health checks at recommended intervals”. The previous report was given after four months of examinations but the latter was prepared by the board that examined her just once. This is one of those decisions that is not objective, just like the other seriously ill political prisoners’ cases. We can’t accept that.
Have you had any objections to this and what results have you received?
Yes. Our appeal against the report to the Supreme Council of Forensic Medicine has not yet been decided upon and we are preparing a motion about the subject by an independent committee. Mrs. Tugluk must be released immediately, without waiting a second more. Time works against her every hour because it is an incurable disease in prison. The ATK Presidency will be responsible for anything that happens to our client. Due to the nature of her disease, it is impossible to treat her in prison and to stop the progression of the disease. In addition to many reasons, since there are very few things in her prison environment and also given the small number of people she is in contact with and lack of stimuli, her disease gets worse in prison and she should be released.
Did your client say anything about her situation in your meeting with her?
Until the last process, we had not shared the situation with the public at her request, but she stated that it can now be shared because we are carrying out all other legal processes, especially following the decision of the Istanbul ATK. She said she sends her thanks, love and respect to everyone out there who is in solidarity with her.
How do you evaluate the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP’s) approach to sick prisoners, when we look at Tuğluk’s case?
I would like to state that the AKP Presidency has always been a problem not only in Turkey but also in all anti-democratic countries. ATK reports are the biggest reason why, for many files in Turkey where the perpetrator is a police officer, the results lead to impunity. Unfortunately, there are images of political prisoners being taken into hospitals in conditions where they are tortured. The situation for Mrs. Tuğluk is the same. Whilst appealing to them to change this mistaken approach, I would also like to state that if our objection is rejected by the authorities, we will start all legal processes related to all members of the ATK Presidency who have signed the report.