Abdullah Demirbaş, the former mayor of the Sur municipality in Diyarbakir, was arrested by Turkish authorities in August. The charges filed against him haven’t yet been made public; according to sources, not even his lawyers have been privy to that information. The 49-year-old politician has long been targeted by the ruling authorities. In the past, charges have included his use of the Kurdish language in an official capacity.
This latest arrest comes amid charges against a number of Kurdish politicians, following the June 7 parliamentary elections that saw the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose its majority, while the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) successfully surpassed the minimum 10-percent threshold required to gain representation in the Turkish Parliament. The AKP subsequently failed to form a government.
Ahead of the Nov. 1 snap elections, and under the guise of attacking ISIS strongholds, authorities targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and brought various Kurdish centers and villages under siege. Many observers see this as the Turkish government’s attempt to instigate and maintain violence and unrest—even civil war—that will harm the HDP ahead of the elections.
Demirbaş suffers from a hereditary blood clotting disorder, which has given rise to serious concerns for his safety in jail. Recently, his daughter, Berfin Demirbaş, wrote a personal appeal for his release. The appeal was posted on the petition site change.org, and has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.
Demirbaş has been an advocate of minority rights, and worked towards the reconstruction of the Armenian Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir. He was once quoted as saying, “I want for Armenians the same things as I want for Kurds.”
Below is the English translation of Berfin’s appeal.
I am reaching out to you as someone whose father is imprisoned and under risk of death. My father is ill and is currently in jail. We feel that he is basically being condemned to die in jail and that his continued incarceration is an invasion of his right to life. As his family, we are most worried and demand that he be released.
The state should be responsible for the lives of those it has incarcerated—the individuals whose basic rights and liberties have been denied behind cement walls and prison bars. Yet, the state is leaving more than 130,000 sick inmates to die through the politics of violence and massacre, as well as the pain of isolation in the prison system.
Abdullah Demirbaş, the former mayor of the Sur district of the Diyarbakir province in Turkey, was apprehended on Aug. 5, accused of violating the law against the financing of terrorist activity, and of being a member of a terrorist organization. His case was reported under file #2015/1791 by the Diyarbakir Head Prosecutor’s Office, was forwarded to the Diyarbakir 3rd Court Magistrate, and subsequently followed by the latter court’s decision to incarcerate him under 2015/245.
As diagnosed in 2002, Demirbaş suffers from a hereditary blood coagulation disease known as deep vein thrombosis, a medical condition that leads to blood clots, especially in the legs. Such clots most often lead to swelling of the legs, leg pain, and major discomfort while walking. In more serious cases where a particular clot breaks out of its original location and actually reaches the lungs, the patient can suffer from what is called a pulmonary embolism, a much more serious condition that includes shortness of breath, coughing fits, and chest pain, and could possibly lead to death.
Demirbaş was previously apprehended on Dec. 24, 2009, and was released due to his worsening medical condition, following 55 days of hospitalization while in jail. His release was secured through a report issued by Dicle University’s Medical School Hospital, following painstaking work by that center’s medical staff. The doctors concluded that my father’s condition was one of life and death, due to the serious amount of clotting in his legs.
Under the current circumstances, the Istanbul University Hospital’s medical report states that because the conditions of his present incarceration, coupled with his prior illnesses, carry a high risk factor for deep vein thrombosis, it would be impossible to conduct a safe and thorough follow-through of his medical condition while he is in jail.
Under the principles of proportionality, it is an outright violation of one’s right to life if the incarcerated individual suffers from a serious medical condition. The right to life comes first and foremost among all rights and liberties and should be protected, guarded, and given utmost consideration. And that is why we believe Abdullah Demirbaş should be released from jail due to his medical condition. It is important to note that even in cases of the death penalty, and regardless of the nature of the crime committed, that penalty can be performed only after the incarcerated and sick individual has received the necessary medical care and attention, a right s/he in fact has. Keeping Demirbaş behind bars constitutes a violation of the constitution, as well as the principles of universally accepted legal norms.