Seriously Ill Prisoner Denied Sufficient Medical Treatment in Turkey


On a morning in 2012, the Turkish police knocked on the door of Mehmet Öztekin’s house. He was then taken away by the police who would not provide any explanation or evidence for the charges that gave them authority to detain him for the next four days.

Five days after he was detained, Mehmet Öztekin was taken to appear in court. The judge informed him that the court found him guilty of “making propaganda on behalf of a terror organisation” and “threatening the integrity of the Turkish state” and consequently sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Mehmet Öztekin was sent to serve his sentence at Diyarbakir Type D Prison where he was infected with Hepatitis B virus due to the poor prison conditions. A year later he was transferred to Bingöl M Type Prison.

Öztekin was transferred from Bingöl M Type Closed Prison to solitary confinement in the high-security Van F Type Closed Prison when he was caught trying to flee the prison with two other prisoners and furthermore banned from communication for one month. Here, Öztekin’s health continued to deteriorate but he was not granted permission to be treated at a hospital.

He made a request to be moved to a half-open prison but it was denied as authorities viewed him a high-risk prisoner due to his terror-related charges.

Over the course of just two months, Öztekin lost around 30 kilos which should have been reason enough to at least evaluate his cell conditions but prison authorities refused this, citing his alleged behaviour of “making holes in the prison walls” and “damaging property of the country” as arguments to not consider his appeals.

Friends of Mehmet Öztekin in the same prison insist that he is innocent and that he has become a victim of the system from the unfounded terror charges to the accusations of damaging state property.

His mother has made public pleas so that her son might be given proper medical treatment. Mehmet Öztekin is currently presenting symptoms such as continuous vomiting, body bruising, swelling, lack of appetite and inability to sleep at night.

It is vital that independent medical staff is granted permission to examine Mehmet Öztekin’s health condition.

F-Type Prisons

The F-type prisons have a notorious reputation in Turkey. They were established on principles of isolating the prisoner and depriving him of contact with other people as opposed to the former dormitory-like prisons that could hold up to 50 prisoners in each cell. The F-type prisons are build to accommodate only 1-3 individuals.

F-type prisons hold people convicted of being members of illegal, armed organisations, having committed drug offences or organised crimes and those serving life imprisonment sentences.

In December 2011, the Ankara branch of Turkey’s Progressive Lawyers’ Association released a report about the conditions in Sincan F-type prisons based on visits to the prisons and interviews conducted with the prisoners, concluding that “maltreatment, torture and rights violations are still widespread in the so-called high-security F-type prisons, after 11 years of their bloody introduction.”

The report highlighted several examples of violations of rights:

– Isolating some prisoners in single cell units that has ventilation area for only one person, and limiting daily ventilation time to 1-4 hours, is a gross rights violation.

– Detainees are forcefully stripped naked upon their arrival at the prison facility. Those who oppose this treatment are condemned to solitary confinement on grounds of “insulting and resisting officials”.

– Number of suicides at F-type prisons reveals isolation’s detrimental effects as well as that the psychological care is not sufficient. Ill patients can wait for months to get checked by doctors. A doctor is present only for 1,5 days a week at Sincan F-type prison no 1. Journalist Erol Zavar, who has cancer and is kept here, has not been released despite numerous applications.

– Besna Özer, 60, had been denied medical care twice, on grounds that she doesn’t speak Turkish. Her demand for diet food has been rejected.

– Although the phone conversions of inmates are recorded at Sincan no 1, they are also required to announce name and phone number of the person they are speaking to at the beginning of the call. Those who oppose the practice are denied the rights to phone calls since January 4th, 2011.

– During cell searches, even photographs and art work are confiscated.

– Legally published books and publications can be restricted. Among them are the “Communist Manifesto”, Server Tanilli’s “History of Civilization” and columnist and writer Ece Temelkuran’s books.

There are several examples of prisoners who have been maltreated in Turkish prisons as can be seen here, here and here.