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84-year-old Kurd with severe health issues temporarily released after 27-year incarceration

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Mehmet Emin Özkan, an 84-year-old Kurdish man with serious health problems has been temporarily released after 27 years in prison, with the execution of his sentence suspended for three months due to his critical state of health, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Monday.

Özkan, who has suffered four heart attacks behind bars, has other health problems as well, including high blood pressure, toxic goiter, osteoporosis, kidney disease, memory loss and loss of hearing and sight. Özkan is unable to take care of himself and is assisted by a cellmate.

According to Turkish media reports, after feeling unwell Özkan was taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Diyarbakır on July 13. He was released from from intensive care over the weekend and taken back to prison.

His daughter Selma Özkan said she learned about her father being taken to the hospital from other inmates and added that her father had been taken to the hospital five times over the past 20 days.

Özkan’s daughter added that after her father’s return to prison, her brother went to the Diyarbakır Courthouse to inquire about a Institute of Forensic Medicine (ATK) report on their father. The prosecutor said the execution of her father’s sentence had been postponed for three months and that he would be released from prison after the completion of paperwork.

Kurdish lawmaker Meral Danış Bektaş visited Özkan at his home following his release from prison on July 17, 2023.

After his release on Monday, Özkan was taken home by his family and then spoke to Mezopotamya about his incarceration.

“We have resisted until today. We kept our promise. … We will continue to resist until the end. Prison [conditions are] very harsh. Our friends there are putting up great resistance. … The Turkish state has done everything, but they couldn’t break this resistance,” Özkan said, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s crackdown on Kurds.

Images on social media of Özkan being taken to a hospital in handcuffs had caused outrage among rights activists in May 2021.


Özkan was sentenced to aggravated life for alleged membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was found responsible for the death of Brig. Gen. Bahtiyar Aydın in October 1993.

Özkan has denied any responsibility for the incident.

He had not been released until Monday because the reports prepared by the ATK suggested that he “could remain in prison” despite reports from the Diyarbakır Gazi Yaşargil Education and Research Hospital stating otherwise.

The charges against Özkan were based on two witness testimonies that were later recanted. In a 2014 indictment for what is known as the “Lice trial,” the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office said there was no tangible evidence that Özkan had ever taken part in terrorist activities. The trial concerned the alleged illegal activities of gendarmerie intelligence units known as JİTEM.

The PKK has been waging an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

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