Twenty bar associations in Turkey released a statement on Sunday calling for the urgent release of the sick Kurdish political prisoner Aysel Tuğluk after a group of national and international lawyers’ associations sent a letter on Friday (21 January) to work groups and rapporteurs of the United Nations (UN) calling for ‘urgent intervention’ into Tuğluk’s case.
Aysel Tuğluk, a lawyer by profession, was arrested alongside many other Kurdish politicians on 29 December 2016 when she was serving as deputy co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). She has been incarcerated since then in a high security prison in Turkey’s western province of Kocaeli and has been denied release despite suffering from severe dementia which has been worsening for some time.
A letter was recently sent to the UN, signed by numerous lawyers’ associations including the Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados (Madrid, Spain), Conseil national des Barreaux (France), the Human Rights Committee of the German Bar Association, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the London Legal Group (UK), National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (the Philippines), Syndicat des Avocats pour la Démocratie (Belgium), The Italian Association Giuristi Democratici, The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (South Africa), the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).
The letter read:
“The fact that Aysel Tuğluk is currently kept in prison conditions despite her serious medical condition and the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication that the authorities do not act in compliance with domestic law and international standards.”
The letter urged the Turkish authorities ‘to immediately release Aysel Tuğluk and other prisoners in similar states of health, to enable a sufficient number of health workers to provide services freely without intervention, and to allow experts from human rights organisations and representatives of NGOs to visit and report on prisons.’
This was followed on Sunday by a statement released by the bar associations of 20 provinces in Turkey, 15 of them Kurdish-majority provinces.
The statement said:
“The lawyer Aysel Tuğluk was examined over a period of eight months by nine expert physicians from the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Kocaeli Faculty of Medicine. It was concluded that Tuğluk’s state of health was deteriorating, that there could be problems regarding her treatment under prison conditions, and that the execution of her prison sentence should be postponed due to the fact that she was not fit to live unsupported in prison. However, the report of this examination was not taken into account by the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute, who concluded on 3 September that her state of health did not necessitate her release from prison, and an appeal calling for the deferral of her prison sentence was rejected on the basis of this conclusion.”
The statement continued:
“Aysel Tuğluk is not capable of meeting her basic needs such as eating and drinking, and her condition continues to deteriorate due to prison conditions. As she is neither able to care for herself nor to communicate efficiently with others, it has become urgent that her prison sentence is deferred until she has recovered. Pursual of the execution of her sentence on the other hand, will be an indication of practices in violation of human dignity.”