Turkey’s Justice Ministry’s alleged negligence is said to have caused a delay in the transfer to the hospital of pro-Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas after he fell ill in prison last week.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced this after a visit to the jailed leader, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Tuesday.
“He also stated that those who got him in jail are to blame if he dies in there,” the CHP Vice-Chair Veli Agbaba added in a press statement on Tuesday.
The CHP’s visit to Demirtas, the former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), took place after he hit the headlines on Monday due to his ailing health and delayed hospital treatment.
Aygul Demirtas, lawyer and sister of the 46-year-old politician, on Monday announced on Twitter that Demirtas was sent to a hospital for a check-up almost a week after fainting in his cell on November 26.
Despite a request by the prison doctor last week, Demirtas was denied immediate medical treatment in a hospital by the Turkish authorities after he experienced chest pain and trouble breathing, which caused him to lose consciousness, she claimed.
A delegation of CHP members, including Agbaba and lawmakers Zeynel Emre and Bayram Yilmazkaya, paid a visit to the former pro-Kurdish leader in prison in Turkey’s western province of Edirne on Tuesday.
Agbaba underlined in a public statement afterward that Demirtas has had nearly 20 incidents of chest pain and difficulty in breathing in the past 20 years, adding that the episodes have become more frequent after his imprisonment in 2016.
Demirtas, who was jailed on a number of offenses that include terror-related charges, faces 142 years in prison if found guilty in the main case against him.
“In many cases across Turkey, prisoners are not allowed to exercise their right to health. This includes those unlawfully kept behind bars. There would be no problems if the 10th Article of the Constitution is enforced [by the government],” Agbaba further argued.
The article the CHP MP referred to states that “everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, and sect, or any such grounds.”
Agbaba said Demirtas stated: “I wouldn’t demand my release even if I knew that I would die.”
Agbaba said Demirtas “will get examined again, soon. His illness has not been identified yet. But his condition is serious and the necessary precautions must be taken [in order to prevent further deterioration].”
HDP Parliamentary Deputy Chair Mithat Sancar and Group Deputy Chair Fatma Kurtulan, who also paid a visit to Demirtas in jail on Tuesday, have underlined in a public statement that he should have been hospitalized so that his illness can be diagnosed.
“The Justice Ministry must once again allow him to be referred from the prison to a hospital [for endoscopy]. Here, in the presence of the press members, we call on the ministry to give that permission immediately,” Sancar stressed.
Turkey’s crackdown against the Kurdish political movement intensified following the collapse of a two-year-long peace process between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 2015.
Ankara accuses the pro-Kurdish HDP of having links to the Kurdish separatists in the country known as the PKK, which has waged a decades-long armed struggle against the Turkish state.