An 80-year-old Kurdish woman with serious health problems was sent back to prison on Wednesday, as no interpreter was supplied during her examination by the Turkish Forensics Institute, Mezopotamya News Agency reported.
Makbule Özer is serving a two-year sentence for aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation, in Turkey’s eastern border province of Van (Wan). She is diabetic and suffers from heart and liver issues, and is assessed as being 53 percent disabled.
Özer is among the more than 1,500 sick prisoners behind bars in Turkey, according to Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) figures. A report prepared by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) states that the old woman cannot survive behind bars, while the family’s lawyer has taken the matter to Turkey’s Constitutional Court.
The woman, who has been hospitalised several times, was taken to İstanbul on 24 August for an examination by the Forensics Institute, whose report will be crucial for her release from prison. However, the officials at the Institute refused to listen to Özer’s account of her health problems, citing the absence of a Kurdish-Turkish interpreter, according to her lawyer.
“We already have a report. You don’t have to tell us anything,” her lawyer Dilan Kunt quoted the authorities as telling Özer, adding that the Institute will prepare its report by evaluating some earlier reports instead. Özer was sent back to the prison in Van afterwards.
İHD co-chair and lawyer Eren Keskin turned to social media to draw attention to Özer’s situation.
“Her name is Makbule Özer. She is not famous,” Keskin said in a tweet, apparently referring to the recent public outrage that followed the arrest of a famous Turkish pop-singer over her joke about Turkey’s religious vocational schools.
“She has been waiting silently in a country that lacks empathy and in which those in power and the main opposition seek human rights only for themselves. Does anyone hear her?” Keskin asked.
Turkey’s Ministry of Justice made a statement on Saturday to respond to the criticisms surrounding Özer’s situation. The ministry argued that an interpreter was not needed for the Forensics Institute’s examination. According to the ministry, the parties had no problems in communicating during the process.
The ministry said that Özer had understood what had been asked of her during the examination and had done what was asked of her. “… therefore there was no need for an interpreter, and her lawyer also did not make a request for an interpreter,” it said.
The institution has interpreters that can help with communication in different languages including Kurdish, the ministry added.
“An examination starts after the patient gives her informed consent. Since there was no interpreter, no dialogue took place to secure the informed consent of my client.” her lawyer told Mesopotamia News Agency after the ministry’s statement.
The institution should have made an interpreter available without any request, since Özer does not speak Turkish and therefore cannot ask for an intperpreter, the lawyer added.