Intellectuals urge Turkish gov’t to release ailing convicts from prisons in joint petition

Intellectuals urge Turkish gov’t to release ailing convicts from prisons in joint petition

Intellectuals urge Turkish gov’t to release ailing convicts from prisons in joint petition

A definitive Constitutional Court ruling on Ergenekon convict Fatih Hilmioğlu's application, stating that his imprisonment is a breach of 'the right to life,' may constitute a precedent in Turkey. DHA Photo

A group of prominent Turkish and foreign intellectuals, including scholars, writers, politicians, lawyers and activists, have released a petition urging the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to release hundreds of ailing convicts from prisons across the country.

The signatories include many individuals known for their activism, including South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu, American linguist Noam Chomsky, sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, German Green politicians Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir, Hungarian philosopher Gaspar Miklos Tamas and Israeli Sakharov Prize laureate Nurit Peled-Elhanan.

Among the Turkish backers of the petition are writers Murathan Mungan, Aslı Erdoğan, Yıldırım Türker and Sema Kaygusuz; Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members Sabahat Tuncel, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Pınar Aydınlar; Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan and scholar Büşra Ersanlı, who has been imprisoned for nine months as part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case.

In the petition addressed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, the signatories stressed there were 544 ailing convicts in Turkey, including 163 with life-threatening conditions, according to the figures provided by the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV).

They also said that a law enacted in January 2013 had rendered “almost impossible” the release of ailing convicts as a large number among them had received sentences under the “anti-terror laws.”

“The imprisonment of ailing convicts and the exercise of violence against them is a clear violation of ’the right to life’ and ‘right of protection from torture’ as guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights. Turkey should absolutely improve the inhumane conditions in prisons,” the petition said.

Recently, the Turkish Constitutional Court had ruled for the release of an ailing Ergenekon convict, Fatih Hilmioğlu, who has been diagnosed with an advanced-stage cancer.

The court had ruled that Hilmioğlu should be released as a “precautionary measure” until the process of appeals in the Ergenekon trial is completed.

Lawyers said the ruling was not a definitive one and the Court continued examining Hilmioğlu’s petition that he should be freed under the grounds that his imprisonment was a breach of the right to life.