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Justice minister slams forensic council for reports resulting in death of sick prisoners

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Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has put the blame on the country’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) for controversial reports on sick prisoners that lead to these people remaining in prison despite advanced illness, the TR724 news website reported.

The minister, who is at the center of harsh criticism for the continued imprisonment of sick or elderly prisoners, put the blame on the ATK for the situation.

Bozdağ claimed in televised remarks on Sunday that the government always wants the ATK to issue its reports in favor of sick prisoners but that when the ATK rules that a sick inmate is “fit to remain in prison,” there is nothing a prosecutor or a prison administrator can do to ensure their release.

“They issue ‘fit to remain in prison’ reports to cancer patients. I am deeply offended by this,” said Bozdağ, adding that he expects the ATK to be more sensitive about sick prisoners from now on.

The minister’s remarks came in the wake of growing criticism of his ministry following the recent death of 85-year-old former general Vural Avar in prison.

Avar, one of a group of retired generals who were imprisoned last year due to their role in a military intervention in Turkey in 1997, known as the Feb. 28 post-modern coup, died in his sleep in prison last week.

He was being held in Ankara’s Sincan Prison despite health problems, according to media reports. It was previously announced that he had dementia that had progressed and that he had cracked his ribs after a fall in the prison bathroom on Oct. 30.

Similarly, many sick prisoners such as director Fatih Terzioğlu and journalist Mevlüt Öztaş, both cancer patients, were kept in prison despite advanced cancer and died shortly after their release.

Both were jailed on politically motivated charges in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016 due to their links to the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of having masterminded the failed coup. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

A former Kurdish lawmaker, Aysel Tuğluk, was released from prison only in October although she had been diagnosed with dementia long ago. The politician’s release came following months of campaigning for her by rights activists and opposition politicians due to her medical condition.

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