Vedat Erkmen, who was sentenced to an aggravated life sentence and 374 years in prison, died suspiciously in his cell on Sunday in Tekirdağ F-Type Prison.
The prison administration called the prisoner’s family at around 9 pm, informing them that Erkmen had taken his own life. The prison officials also told the family that they had tried to take Erkmen to hospital, but he had died on the way.
Neither the family nor the lawyers have any confidence in what the prison officials had to say.
“Our client, Vedat Erkmen, who was placed in solitary confinement cell on the grounds that he had ‘no life security’ in his own cell, was explicitly murdered. Why would Vedat, who was transferred to another cell for his so-called ‘life security,’ commit ‘suicide’?,” Gürkan İstekli, Erkmen’s lawyer and a member of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD) wrote in his social media account after hearing news of his client’s death.
Whilst Erkmen’s family and lawyers rushed to Tekirdağ, it was discovered that Erkmen’s autopsy was conducted before the arrival of the family members and lawyers.
“My brother was not the type of person, who could take his own life. He had dedicated himself to this struggle, to this path. I suspect that the state killed him,” Saim Erkmen, Vedat Erkmen’s brother told MA whilst he was waiting to collect his brother’s body.
“Since they killed him, they conducted the autopsy confidentially.” Saim Erkmen argues that in order to cover up the murder of his brother, the prison officials “immediately took him to the Forensic Medicine Institute, and conducted the autopsy themselves. No lawyers, no family members, nobody attended the autopsy. But we are not able to prove anything.”
“What are they hiding and who do they hide it from? We have been back and forth between the prison, the court and the hospital for hours,” İstekli wrote on social media, “but the prison [administration] has denied all our demands to have a meeting. We have been able to reach the prosecutor on duty after hours and to identify the body only now.”
Turkish officials at first denied, but later on, after protests of the family, agreed to provide a coffin for Erkmen.
Since no hearse was provided for the family for the transfer of Erkmen’s body to a cemetery, they had to transport Erkmen’s body using their own means.
The family meant to take their son’s body to Digor Dağpınar Association [Digor is a district in Kars, where Erkmen’s family is from] in Istanbul, but the police intervened and did not let the family do so. “You are going to create a scene there, you can’t take his body to the association,” the police said, according to MA.
It was reported that the police practically “kidnapped” the body, taking the body without the will or the permission of the Erkmen family to another destination.
“They do not let us have the body of our loved one because we are Kurdish,” the family noted in response to the actions by the police.
Whilst the family strives to collect his body, Vedat Erkmen’s funeral is expected to be held in Kars (Qers).
The family’s lawyer Istekli shared information that during his weekly phone call last week (on 17 December), Erkmen asked his brother to file a criminal complaint against the prison administration.
Vedat Erkmen’s death is the third death case reported from Turkey’s prisons within the past two weeks.
Kurdish female prisoner Garibe Gezer was found dead on 9 December in her cell in Kandıra Prison, located in Kocaeli.
Abdurrezak Suyur, a political prisoner who was diagnosed with lung cancer and asthma, lost his life on 14 December in his cell in Şakran Prison, in Turkey’s western city of Izmir.
Another seriously ill prisoner, Halil Güneş, who was suffering from lung and bone cancer, was reported to have died on 15 December, in Diyarbakır High Security Prison in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır (Amed).