On Monday, as activists from a women’s platform launched a social media campaign calling for an end to the ill-treatment of imprisoned politician Aysel Tuğluk, a Turkish court demanded the ailing former deputy give testimony despite her ill health.
The court heard Tuğluk’s testimony via videoconference on Monday in spite of her deteriorating health condition due to dementia.
“I don’t know when it happened, or what happened. I don’t even know what I’m being tried for,” a Twitter account following the trial quoted Tuğluk as saying.
Tuğluk, a veteran Kurdish politician who served as a deputy in the Turkish parliament from 2011-2015, has been imprisoned since her arrest in 2016. In 2018, she was handed a 10-year sentence for “leadership of a terrorist organisation”, and she is currently held in a maximum-security prison near Istanbul.
In 2017 Tuğluk lost her mother Hatun Tuğluk, whose funeral ceremony in the capital Ankara was marred by a an attack by a Turkish racist mob, traumatising the politician and reportedly exasperating her dementia condition.
Tuğluk is one of scores of Kurdish politicians and activists currently facing prosecution in the Kobane trial. The Turkish government has accused the defendants of organising riots in 2014, but critics say the trials are being used to imprison rivals of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
The plight of Tuğluk has drawn considerable attention as she has remained imprisoned for years as her health continued to deteriorate. The 1000 Women for Aysel Tuğluk platform called for an end to the torture being inflicted on Tuğluk with the hashtag #AyselTuğlukaİşkenceyeSon (End the torture against Aysel Tuğluk) on 30 and 31 July.
As part of the campaign, a group of women including politicians, lawyers and actress Tilbe Saran released videos that included details of Tuğluk’s condition and calls to become “Aysel Tuğluk’s voice.”
The platform’s move came after the Turkish state’s Forensic Medicine Institute prepared a report earlier this month that deemed Tuğluk eligible to be imprisoned despite listing symptoms that point to the gravity of her condition. The platform said that Tuğluk is having trouble continuing her life on her own in prison and that her health is declining with each day.
The institute’s report contradicts those of independent reports that were sought before, which acknowledged Tuğluk’s deteriorating health and deemed her unfit to be kept in prison.
Although Tuğluk was seen to be forgetful and confused with her statements in court, the court administrator in charge of the ongoing Kobane case asked her on Thursday to personally tell the court that she can’t testify and that her lawyer should continue the defence.
“This is torture and it is unlawful,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ayşe Acar Başaran said on Twitter on Saturday.
“Let’s defend Aysel Tuğluk’s freedom on all platforms,” she added.
The 1000 Women for Aysel Tuğluk platform has created a petition for her release and there are currently over 6,300 signatures.
Story updated to include Aysel Tuğluk’s testimony at trial 1 August.