The issue of the seriously ill under arrest

The issue of the seriously ill under arrest

Hürriyet columnist Sedat Ergin published another valuable journalistic study – I say again because he always does it. This time he researched the health records of former rector of İnönü University Professor Fatih Hilmioğlu, who is under arrest at Silivri Prison. He published two pieces on Feb. 12 and 13.

Professor Hilmioğlu has serious health problems, as listed in Sedat Ergin’s column, but the court that hears the case, the panel of judges of the 13th Criminal Court, have continued to reject the pleas of his lawyers for years.

Based on what?

In universal law and in our Law of Criminal Procedure, arrests require certain circumstances: There should be the possibility that the arrested may run away and/or tamper with evidence. It is the court that has the judicial discretion on whether there is such a possibility.

If Professor Hilmioğlu is released, where and how can he escape? What evidence will he tamper with, especially when we are talking about evidence that has not been found even though four years have passed?

Besides, even if the defendants are let free, it is possible to restrict their freedom, such as with routine visits to the nearest police station and a ban on leaving the country. Despite all this, even if the panel of judges assumes that there is the possibility of defendants like Hilmioğlu escaping and tampering with evidence, again, they can decide on a release and take these precautions.

But no, these trials of the “specially authorized courts” have opted in such a practice that it is possible only after a nine-hour surgery that seriously sick patients are released. And the defendants learn only after they are awakened in the intensive care unit that they have been released. Just like Gen. Ergin Saygun’s situation.

Interestingly, such a practice is criticized by everybody, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who used to say at one time, “I am the prosecutor of this case.” This is indeed a positive development; however, it is apparent that new legislation is required so that it is reflected in the practices of the “specially authorized courts.”

Is all of this included adequately in the package prepared, the so-called fourth judicial package? The first impression of the jurists is not optimistic. They say the package that has been prepared has to be advanced in Parliament.

The question of whether it is possible to advance the package in Parliament is unfortunately negative; because it had not been possible while the last motion passed in Parliament. A proposal on this subject had been refused to be debated. If that proposal had been accepted, the situation that is criticized by everybody today would have been changed at that time and would have been applied since then.

Here is the relevant section of that proposal: “An arrest decision cannot be ruled for suspects or defendants who have been confirmed by a general hospital’s report as unable to conduct their daily lives alone under prison conditions because of a serious illness or disability they are suffering, and who need the support of others for treatment, recovery and care.”

“Those defendants under arrest who have been subject to a serious illness or disability after they have been arrested, after this has been confirmed by a general hospital’s report that they are not able to conduct their daily lives alone under prison conditions, and who need the support of others for treatment, recovery and care will be released with the recognition that the justifications for their arrest have disappeared.”

This was an almost “perfect” proposal, except that it was not submitted by the ruling party deputies but opposition party deputies. The fanaticism of the ruling party’s group of deputies did not give the opportunity for this to pass.

Yes, if that proposal had been accepted, at least “the sick under arrest” issue would have been solved and there would have been no need for criticisms on that issue.

Altan Öymen is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published on Feb 15. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.