Veteran Kurdish politician Gültan Kışanak, currently held in the Kandıra Prison in northwestern Turkey, faced torture and inhumane treatment while returning to the prison following her sister’s funeral, which she attended on special leave on 9 August.
Kışanak, who previously served as the mayor of Diyarbakır (Amed) and co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was removed from the cemetery in her hometown Elazığ in a rush, and was taken to a nearby prison. She was later told she had exceeded the four-hour leave granted for the funeral.
The politican was held overnight without her essential medication in a dirty store room, away from other inmates arrested over similar charges against her request. She was not allowed to speak with her family or lawyers.
The next day, Kışanak was denied phone calls again, and when her lawyers managed to arrange a visit, was denied a visit. Prison officials told Kışanak she could not accept visitors as a convict.
“However, Kışanak is not a convict. She has been on trial under arrest for seven whole years, without a conviction, outside of justice,” Labour Party (EMEP) MP Sevda Karaca Demir said in a social media post as she relayed Kışanak’s plight.
MP Karaca Demir had visited Kışanak on Tuesday, after her visit to former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ and former mayor of Tunceli (Dersim) Nurhayat Altun in the same prison.
Kışanak was arrested in 2020, as part of a lawsuit regarding a series of street protests dubbed the 6-8 October Events, where Kurds and supporters took to the streets during the 2014 siege of Syrian Kurdish town Kobani by the Islamic State (ISIS). Yüksekdağ is also indicted in the same case, although she was arrested earlier in 2016 along with her co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
The politicians are facing charges of terrorism and incitement to violence, evidence for which was presented as the speeches they gave as part of their offices’ duties.
Following efforts by her lawyers, Kışanak was taken out of the Elazığ Prison by car and was taken to another prison in the neighbouring Sivas province.
“She was told the reason for the Sivas detour was that there were no available flights,” Karaca Demir said. “Despite all expenses being paid to the prison administration in advance, the trip was made into a veritable torture session.”
Kışanak spent seven hours in a prison bus, and arrived in the Kandıra Prison 700 miles to the west at 3 a.m. local time.
“This appaling treatment cannot be deemed proper for any prisoner, least of all an elected politician who is in mourning. Such mistreatment that aims to torture is inhumane, and unlawful. The Justice Ministry owes us an explanation,” Karaca Demir said.
Kışanak’s treatment was “a clear sign of feelings of grudge and vengeance against the struggle of the Kurdish people”, the HDP said in a statement.
“This torment of a human being in mourning is a departure from humanity. We will never forget what was done,” the party said.