Turkish prisons have long been talked of as places of torture, mistreatment and the deprivation of the most basic rights, predominantly in regard to political prisoners. However, rights violations in the prisons have reached unprecedented levels, reports say.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are currently around 605 sick prisoners in Turkey. Although these people struggle with serious illness in prison, they are deprived of opportunities for treatment and medical care, especially during the pandemic.
Prisoners with multiple serious health problems are not released until it is too late and their conditions have worsened considerably. There are seriously ill prisoners who are not released despite official Forensic Medicine reports stating that they ”unfit to remain in prison”, and their conditions worsen day by day. The political prisoner Fatma Tokmak is one of these.
Eren Keskin, lawyer and co-chair of the İHD, shares her serious concerns regarding the state of health of sick prisoner Fatma Tokmak, who has been in prison for 20 years. ”Her health condition is getting steadily worse,” she said.
Fatma Tokmak and her two-year-old son Azad were detained in 1996, and Fatma was sentenced to life imprisonment on a charge of “membership of a terrorist organisation”. In the beginning, Fatma Tokmak spent three weeks in detention in a police station with her son. During her detention she was subjected to sexual and mental torture.
Eren Keskin said police officers also tortured her son Azad in order to get information from Fatma and to force her to confess to the allegations against her. Two-year-old Azad’s hand and back were burned with cigarettes and he was given electric shocks. Azad was sent to an orphanage and he was only able to return to his family after a great bureaucratic struggle.
”Fatma and her infant son were subjected to intense torture. At the time, this incidence of torture went as far as the US Congress, because a child had been tortured,” Keskin said.
”Fatma did not know Turkish at all then. However, she was formally arrested after putting her fingerprint to a statement in Turkish. In fact, she didn’t even know what she was accused of,” Keskin added.
Fatma Tokmak has been suffering from severe heart disease triggered by the torture and poor prison conditions.
”Fatma has difficulty in breathing and sores occur on her body. She is a prisoner with a high risk of death at any moment,” Keskin said.
In 2005 Tokmak was released in order to receive regular treatment for her illness. However, in 2010 she was taken back to prison, after her sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Keskin criticised the Forensic Medicine Institution for issuing reports on political grounds.
”A prisoner was been released with a previous medical report is now issued a report saying she is fit to remain in prison. The contradiction between the Forensic Medicine reports is striking. Because of them, most sick prisoners are only released a few days before death.”
Keskin concluded saying, ”Fatma must be released because she at risk of death at any time.”