Halil Güneş, 49, an inmate suffering from cancer, was found dead in Diyarbakır Prison on Wednesday after he was denied release due to his condition despite a medical board report, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.
Güneş was sentenced to aggravated life and has been in prison for the past 29 years. He has been suffering from lung and bone cancer. He had been staying alone in a cell for the past five days and was found dead Wednesday morning during rollcall.
Operated on twice, Güneş was also diagnosed with severe COPD and sleep apnea; doctors told him he should sleep with a device that delivers air pressure for the rest of his life and use an oxygen mask during the day.
Güneş was given a medical report in 2014 stating that he was not fit to stay in prison. But he was not released after the Institute of Forensic Medicine issued a report that said he could maintain his life in prison. His lawyers then applied to the Constitutional Court for his release, but his case was not finalized before he died.
According to his lawyer, Aslıhan Bulut, the prison administration has not been giving Güneş his medication despite their petitions.
A second sick inmate, Abdurrazak Suyur, died in an İzmir hospital Tuesday afternoon. He was suffering from early-stage lymphoma. Suyur was hospitalized 10 days ago, but his family was not informed despite their calls to the prison administration. According to lawyer Halil Coşkun, his cause of death was registered as “suspicious” and an autopsy will be conducted.
Both Güneş and Suyur were imprisoned due to their ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said ill prisoners were not released until they were at the point of no return.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.