Gülser Yıldırım, former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Mardin (Merdîn) province, has been released from prison after completing her sentence, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Tuesday.
Yıldırım was arrested in November 2016 alongside then HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, on charges of terrorist propaganda and ‘praising a crime and a criminal’. During the trial process the charges shifted to membership in a terrorist organisation, and she was sentenced to seven years six months in prison in April 2018. The prosecutor had demanded the maximum sentence of 59 years, on several charges. She was sent to the Kandıra Prison in Turkey’s northwestern Kocaeli province, which hosts many high-profile political prisoners including Yüksekdağ and several other former MPs.
According to Turkey’s law on the execution of sentences, the former MP should have qualified for release on parole four months ago when she had served two thirds of her sentence, but her release was delayed when the Court of Cassation failed to issue a release order.
“This is a policy of punishment and revenge by the state,” lawyer Destina Yıldız told reporters in December last year. “Prisoners qualifying for parole are denied release on absurd pretexts. Sick prisoners are denied release despite medical reports stating that they are not fit to remain behind bars.”
Since January 2021, prison administrations have begun to deny release on grounds of ‘lack of good behaviour’, Yıldız said.
“In the past, not having a disciplinary penalty was enough for ‘good behaviour’. New by-laws changed the criteria, and now prisoners are forced to say they regret their actions. If they refuse, they are denied release,” she continued. “According to these new by-laws, a woman who has engaged in legitimate self defence against an abusive husband would need to regret defending herself.”
Among the reasons prisons have refused to grant prisoners ‘good behaviour’ status have been ‘not being sparing with water and electricity’, according to the lawyer. A prisoner also needs to have read a certain amount of books “They only consider the number of books the prisoner has borrowed from the prison library. Books prisoners obtain from outside do not count,” she said.
In October 2021 the HDP submitted a motion for a parliamentary inquiry into the lack of implementation of parole procedures, saying prison administrations were issuing “arbitrary reports” to keep prisoners behind bars.
“This method emerges as a method of execution of sentences that keeps persons behind bars all of their lives, in violation also of the right to hope,” the HDP said in the motion.