Erdoğan’s prison conditions in 1999
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the outcry after the recent arrests of journalists and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies. “When my prison sentence was confirmed in 1999, I went to the Pınarhisar Prison quietly and served my sentence. I did not yell, have a fit, or stage a show,” he said.
Of course, I don’t know how correct it would be to compare today’s Silivri Prison and other F-type prisons with the Pınarhisar Prison of the time. But I do know about how the president’s days passed while he was in prison. This matter is explained in detail in a book written by Hüseyin Besli and Ömer Özbay, titled “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: The Birth of a Leader.”
The book describes how Hasan Yeşildağ, the brother of then-Istanbul City Council member Zeki Yeşildağ, received intelligence that “an assassination attempt will be organized against Erdoğan in prison.” He then decided to go to prison together with Erdoğan, giving someone a bad check for 370,000 Turkish Liras in order to get sentenced. Later he begged the judge to be sentenced to a jail term, and he was ultimately given four months in prison.
Erdoğan and Yeşildağ were able to look themselves for a prison before they were actually incarcerated. They eventually decided on Pınarhisar. Yeşildağ went to the prison first and made a list of things to do. He took a tour of the dormitory that was to be “allocated” to them. He had the room cleaned and wallpapered, and wall-to-wall carpet fitted. The electricity and plumbing were renewed and a water heater.
The door of the dormitory that opened to the corridor and the yard were painted and additional door bolts that could open from inside were installed. Magnetic barriers were placed in the roof and electronic sensors were placed in the yard. They bought furniture and white goods.
The dormitory room was furnished with a large refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher. It had desks and meeting tables, leather armchairs, and a large-screen TV. Their room and the prison library were transferred into a living and working environment. Throughout the time he served in prison, Erdoğan never missed a Fenerbahçe match broadcast live on TV;
The other convicts and wardens were not forgotten either. Pants, shirts, shoes and tracksuits were bought for everyone.
Eventually, Erdoğan went to the prison with Ahmet Ergün and Hayati Yazıcı. The army captain and first lieutenant responsible for the security of the prison greeted him there, along with the prison prosecutor.
They were taken to the dormitory. Erdoğan looked around and showed his appreciation. “Good job,” he said.
“While we were waiting for the ‘chief,’ I held a meeting with the convicts and guardians in the prison. I warned everybody precisely: There should be no smoking around Mr. Tayyip. No crossing of legs. Everybody must be respectful,” Hasan Yeşildağ later said.
Certainly, it seems as if today’s president did not just serve his sentence “quietly.”
Questions in my mind
I wonder whether arrested Cumhuriyet journalist Kadri Gürsel is able to watch Galatasaray games while in prison. I wonder if he has access to hot water whenever he wants.
What about the health of Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu? How many books is he allowed to read? Is he able to see his son?
Have they given caricaturist Musa Kart drawing materials? Can he still send his caricatures to his paper?
Have they given a computer, of course with no Internet access, to the arrested writers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, so that they can write their pieces and their defense?
Why are Nazlı Ilıcak, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan still in prison? What stage of the coup attempt were they involved in to make it necessary to try them under arrest?
What is the floor of writer and linguist Necmiye Alpay’s cell covered with? Was she allowed to install carpets? Do they allow her to buy any book she wants?
I am also particularly worried about the health of novelist Aslı Erdoğan, for whom the prosecutor recently demanded an aggravated life sentence. Even in comfortable situations “outside,” she had health troubles. I wonder how she is now? Even though she has never written a single line praising violence, how can she be kept in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization? How does this wound her soul?