Salih Tuğrul, a former seriously ill-prisoner who was released on 13 December 2014, died on Thursday 16 December in a city hospital where he was being treated, in Mersin, Turkey, and was buried in his hometown Siirt (Sêrt) on Thursday evening.
Tuğrul spent 18 years of his life behind bars as a political prisoner in a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) related case on an aggravated life imprisonment sentence. He suffered from two heart attacks in 2007, after which he became partially paralysed.
Tuğrul had a fall in prison in 2013 and suffered a brain hemorrhage. After this incident, he lost his reflexes and memory and could not continue his daily life because he could not meet his daily needs on his own.
Tuğrul’s death has caused outrage in society as it represented the third death, two days after cancer patient Abdürrezak Suyur lost his life in an Izmir prison on 14 December and just after another seriously ill prisoner, Halil Güneş – who was suffering from lung and bone cancer – was reported to have died on 15 December in Diyarbakır High Security Prison in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır (Amed).
The Solidarity Association For Prisoners’ and Convicts’ Relatives Marmara branch, known as MATUHAY-DER, issued a press statement on Friday 17 December in Istanbul, in protest against the increasing numbers of deaths of seriously ill-prisoners.
İlknur Birol, co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s Istanbul Office appealed to the government to hear the demands of the families of seriously ill prisoners, whose concerns have increased with the news of these recent deaths.
“You must respect people’s right to live. You cannot take people’s right to health away, based on whether they are in prison or not. Stop imposing enemy laws against our seriously ill prisoners,” she said during her speech.
Züleyha Gülüm, HDP’s MP for Istanbul also spoke during the protest. “In this country, prison means death. We pass through such a hard period that we have Garibe Gezer on one hand: we have prisoners who need to be released, who need the execution of their sentences to be postponed due to their illnesses, and prisoners who are denied treatment, on the other hand,” she said.
Gülüm stated that the Forensic Medicine Institute, all those who sign these decisions, the Ministry of Justice and the Turkish government “are all responsible for each violation of rights in prisons and of all deaths taking place in prisons.”
“Until the violations of rights come to an end, until all seriously ill prisoners are released, we will keep raising our voices in protest,” she stated.