(Story updates with Tuğluk’s release)
Aysel Tuğluk, founding co-chair of a since shut down pro-Kurdish congress, DTK (Democratic Society Congress) and ex-MP from Democratic Society Party (DTP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was released from the Kandıra Prison in northwest Turkey late on Thursday afternoon, when the report that Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK) issued on Wednesday was processed by the prison.
HDP MP Zeliha Gülsüm announced Tuğluk’s release on Twitter.
Uzun bir bekleyişten sonra #AyselTuğluk yoldaşımız Özgür .. ✌️✌️💜💜@BinlerceAysel @HDPgenelmerkezi @HDPkadin
— Züleyha Gülüm (@zuleyhagulum) October 27, 2022
The former MP was arrested in 2016 alongside co-chairs and several MPs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). She was diagnosed with dementia last year while behind bars, and her condition has since deteriorated to the point of inability to attend to her daily needs or present her defence in court.
The prison administration told Tuğluk’s lawyers that the report had reached the prison on Thursday morning.
“The procedure not being completed to this hour is on its own a sign that the tyranny continues,” lawyer Ezgi Güngördü told reporters as they continue to wait outside of Kandıra Prison.
The lawyers “expect a release in the coming hours”, lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir said. However, Tuğluk’s condition “is no longer treatable”, according to Baydemir.
Tuğluk’s family and lawyers had obtained medical reports from various hospitals, including the public research hospital that Tuğluk was diagnosed at, saying her condition did not allow her to see to her bare minimum needs behind bars, and that prison conditions were detrimental to her already ailing health, but Turkey only recognises ATK reports as evidence in cases of conditional release.
The Constitutional Court in August rejected a release application for Tuğluk, who worked as a human rights lawyer for years before entering parliament, on the grounds that the ATK had at the time said she could remain behind bars, while acknowledging that her condition was likely to decline.
Tuğluk and hundreds of HDP politicians are facing charges of terrorism, mostly based on speeches they gave on various occasions and events. Several, including Tuğluk and former co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, also face similar charges over the Kobane protests, three days of demonstrations that spread throughout the country over the Islamic State’s (ISIS) 2014 siege of the Syrian Kurdish town.
In August, Tuğluk was forced to testify in a hearing but could not form coherent sentences to do so. Days later, the court ordered her release in the Kobane protests trial. Due to a finalised sentence as part of the trial of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Tuğluk was not released from prison at the time.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said arrested Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk’s health would be re-evaluated as he announced an upcoming new regulation for sick prisoners in September.