Is Sise Bingöl healthier than pastor Brunson?
Sise Bingöl is a 78-year-old being convicted on terror charges and has been in prison since April 2017. She was first arrested in April 2016 in a village of the Varto district of the eastern province of Muş along with her son, Zafer Bingöl, on suspicions they were aiding members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
After more than two months in detention, she was released because of her chronic diseases. However, following the final verdict issued by a court in Erzurum, she was arrested once again in April 2017 and was transferred to a prison in Tarsus, a district in Turkey’s south. As her health conditions worsened in the past year, so grave that she cannot even meet her personal needs, Bingöl’s lawyer appealed for her release on probation to the Justice Ministry, according to daily Cumhuriyet.
A state hospital, however, reported that Bingöl’s conditions were good enough to stay in prison, although it stressed that the 78-year-old inmate suffers from diabetes, hypertension and kidney diseases. According to a report issued by the Human Rights Association in March, there are 1,154 sick inmates in prisons, 402 of whom have really serious conditions. The report calls on the government to take effective steps to ameliorate their conditions.
It’s only coincidence that the news reports on Bingöl’s continued imprisonment came only a few days after American pastor Andrew Brunson was removed from prison to house arrest in the Aegean province of İzmir over health reasons.
A quick flashback will recall the fact that the U.S. national evangelical pastor was moved to house arrest on July 25, five days after U.S. President Donald Trump slammed an earlier court decision, which ordered the pastor’s imprisonment, in a strongly-worded Twitter message which described the situation as a “total disgrace.”
It’s not up to a journalist to give an opinion on medical issues, but it could be suggested that the footage of Brunson leaving prison was rather displaying a healthy 50-year-old man.
As can be seen, apart from its diplomatic and political dimensions, the Brunson case reflects some very structural judicial problems in Turkey. No need to mention, there are scores of other examples that would explain the judicial oddities in this country.
Unfortunately, on top of them is the political influence on justice that undermines the sine qua non principle of an impartial and independent judiciary for a functioning rule of law in a country. The detention and the release of German, French and other foreign nationals upon diplomatic processes as well as Brunson’s house arrest are just few cases to this end which have been observed during the two-year-long state of emergency. In the same period, tens of thousands of Turkish nationals have also suffered from politically-motivated judicial processes in the name of the fight against the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the PKK. Political leaders, mayors from opposition parties, and dissident journalists were arrested on weak indictments, often without credible evidence in this period.
Another important issue that needs to be resolved is the length of the detentions. Brunson’s is just one of the cases. He could perfectly be released pending trial which could avoid all these diplomatic spats with the U.S. This applies to all defendants that have been filling Turkish prisons, including two lawmakers, Enis Berberoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Leyla Güven from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). For that matter, Turkish prisons are crowded and many facilities are far from providing the necessary conditions for the prisoners.
Under the new presidential governance system, there are concerns that the executive will have more influence on justice, especially after last year’s constitutional changes in relation to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors.
These are a few but basic issues that Turkey has to resolve in the coming period without delay. A damaged judicial environment is not only harming Turkey’s social and political nature but also its foreign relations, as can be seen. Turkey, Turkish nationals and all foreigners living in this country deserve to receive a decent, fair and equal judicial service. This is an irrevocable necessity for any state that wants to be deemed a respected nation in the world.