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.
The release order came after the Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK) issued a report on Wednesday saying Tuğluk’s condition made her “unfit to stay in prison”. The former MP was diagnosed with dementia on 22 March 2021 at a research hospital in the Kocaeli province, but Turkish courts only accept ATK reports as evidence in criminal cases.
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 was arrested in 2016 alongside HDP co-chairs and several MPs on terrorism charges. Her condition has worsened behind bars, due to lack of stimulation and distance from places and people she could use to trigger her memory. During hearings of a case against her in the summer, Tuğluk was seen confused and unable to make sense of the outside world. Politicians in the same prison as her said she was no longer able to see to her daily needs alone.
Activists from around the globe issued calls for Tuğluk’s release, intensifying efforts after her diagnosis.
In March, more than 5,000 women from 54 countries joined a call for the immediate release of the prominent Kurdish politician due to her deteriorating health.
In April, a campaign entitled 1000 Women for Aysel Tuğluk launched a petition on Lawyers’ Day in Turkey, urging all bar associations to take action for her release.
Meanwhile, a court in Ankara had forced the jailed Kurdish politician to take the stand in her hearing where she faced terrorism charges despite the Kurdish politician’s apparent inability to express a coherent defence due to advancing dementia.
Days later, the court overturned her arrest order in the trial over the 2014 street protests for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane. Due to a finalised sentence as part of another case, Tuğluk was not released from prison at the time.