A 70-year-old prisoner suffering from throat cancer, Şakir Turan, has died in a Turkish prison in Edirne. Despite being listed as a seriously ill prisoner in need of urgent release, Turkish authorities refused to release him, and his applications for a suspension of his six-year sentence for membership of an illegal organisation were rejected.

Şakir Turan, a 70-year-old prisoner in the Turkish city of Edirne who suffered from throat cancer, died on Wednesday. Despite being listed by the Human Rights Association (İHD) as a seriously ill prisoner in need of urgent release, the Turkish authorities had refused to release him.

Turan, who was diagnosed with throat cancer while in prison, had applied twice – once in January and again in August – to have his six-year sentence for membership of an illegal organisation suspended as his health deteriorated. Both requests were rejected after a medical committee concluded that his condition did not warrant a suspension, despite his inability to walk or speak.

Having lost 23 kilos in the past four months, Turan had been in hospital for the past week. His family only found out about his hospitalisation days later, from relatives of other inmates, not from the prison administration.

The Green Left Party issued a statement on Turan’s death on Wednesday, saying: “We all know that this is not fate, but murder”. The statement called for an end to the hostile treatment of prisoners by medical staff and the prison administration.

The denial of release to sick political prisoners is a long-standing issue in Turkey, often highlighted by human rights organisations and political parties. According to the İHD, 78 prisoners lost their lives in custody in 2022 and the number reached 15 in the first five months of 2023. Currently, there are still 1,517 sick prisoners in prisons, 651 of whom are in a critical condition.

Abdurrahman Turan, who learned of his father’s hospitalisation late, recalled that during a visit on 28 August, his father had conveyed the message: “Take care of yourselves, be united. I’m holding my head high, I haven’t taken a step back”.

Efforts to attend Turan’s funeral in Mardin (Mêrdîn), a southeastern Turkish province with a Kurdish majority, were met with resistance from Turkish law enforcement on Thursday morning. Officials attempted to limit the turnout by declaring that “only first-degree relatives can join the funeral procession”.