70-year-old suffering from leukemia dies days after his release from prison

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Mehmet Ali Çelebi, 70, passed away on Saturday, just days after he was released from prison due to his deteriorating health, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

Çelebi was suffering from late stage leukemia and was admitted to intensive care only a week after he was released from Ankara’s Sincan Prison on August 25.

Erdal Avcı, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said during the funeral the government was responsible for the death of sick inmates who were not released in time to seek treatment.

Çelebi was Kurdish and Alevi and was described as a human rights activist by HDP deputies. He had been in prison for 28 years, but the details of his conviction were not known.

The situation of sick prisoners who have been denied release has caused an outcry among opposition politicians and activists, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist and deputy from the HDP, has depicted the deaths of critically ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of murder committed by the state.

“They refuse to release the prisoners until it reaches the point of no return. They only release the prisoners when they realize they will die soon, not wanting them to die in prison,” he said.

Deputies such as Gergerlioğlu and Züleyha Gülüm from the HDP have said prison administrations, judicial bodies, deputies in parliament, the Ministry of Justice and some doctors treat prisoners according to their “type of crime.”

According to Gergerlioğlu the ideological leanings of prisoners determine the quality of health care they will receive or if they will be released to seek proper treatment.

He said sick prisoners are released when the authorities realize they will die soon and claimed that prisoners did not have access to proper healthcare facilities such as hospitals or infirmaries.

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