Sick prisoners in Istanbul show Covid-19 symptoms

In a prison near Istanbul, three inmates show partly severe symptoms of coronavirus infection. The inmates are two paralyzed prisoners and another one who does not have hands.

In the Metris R-type prison near Istanbul, three political prisoners show partly severe symptoms of coronavirus infection. The affected are the inmates of a cell: Ergin Aktaş (32), who lost both hands in 2011 when a bomb exploded during a demonstration in the Kurdish province of Ağrı; Serdal Yıldırım (27), who has been paraplegic for ten years due to an accident in Kızıltepe; and Abdullah Turan (33), who was injured in the fight against the ISIS in Northern Syria and has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since. All three prisoners have already been certified several times by forensic medicine as unfit for imprisonment. Nevertheless, they are not released. 

Serdal Yıldırım’s brother Sedat Yıldırım stated that the prisoners complain of a severe cough with partly bloody sputum and high fever. Their condition is getting worse and worse, but treatment in hospital is out of the question for them. "After a stay in hospital they would have to be quarantined in a solitary cell for at least two weeks. None of the three are able to take care of themselves. They must be released from prison so that they do not die."

Yıldırım expressed his concern also for all other prisoners. Only last week several lawyers had been refused entry into the prison because of pandemic threat. He fears that the infected prisoners will all die unless action is taken immediately.

Drastic situation in Turkish prisons

With the corona pandemic, the situation in prisons in Turkey has dramatically deteriorated. Preventive measures are inadequate, and rules of distance cannot be observed. In July, the "Civil Society Association in the Prison System" (Ceza İnfaz Sisteminde Sivil Toplum Derneği, CİSST) drew attention to the fact that prisoners do not receive hygiene products and do not have access to adequate health care. The report drawn up by the association from complaints received from 96 prisons between 29 June and 10 July also shows that medical treatment of sick prisoners has been stopped. The report also criticises the lack of adequate air supply and the arbitrary restriction of yard time in some prisons. Especially in open prisons there are complaints about unhygienic conditions in the dining rooms, which have to be used by too many prisoners at the same time.

Access to soap and disinfectants is handled differently in prisons. In some prisons, hygiene products are distributed free of charge, in others they are difficult to obtain even against payment. Face masks are also not available everywhere.

Water supply a major problem

A major problem is the lack of water supply. The water supply is often interrupted, hot water is only available in limited quantities. There are also many complaints about the quality and quantity of food. In some prisons there are no doctors in the infirmaries, or the prisoners are not even brought to the infirmary. Instead, they are questioned by prison officers at the cell door about their complaints and are then given medication, some of which has already expired. In some correctional facilities, external medical treatment has been completely discontinued.

The lack of health care is particularly dramatic for the chronically ill prisoners. The association's report points out that several prisoners are in a critical condition. Each time they leave the prison, the prisoners must remain in quarantine for a fortnight on their return. Many of those affected are so badly off, however, that they are no longer able to care for themselves alone in solitary confinement.