We have all witnessed their sit-in protest in the middle of Ankara demanding 'my job back'; evolving to another level, 5 months after they started.
We have all witnessed their sit-in protest in the middle of Ankara demanding “my job back”; evolving to another level, 5 months after they started; the daily police attacks during their hunger strike, the custodies; invasion of their homes on the 75th day and the escalation of custody to prosecution.
We also found out what career criminals they were through the 50-page, no-expenses-spared, bilingual Turkish/English booklet printed by the Ministry of Interior. This booklet was filled with irrelevant photographs and, in the case of Semih Özakça for example, a table of 4 case references from the prosecutor’s office, all relating to his forced removal from his sit-in protest, demanding his job back. Of course, it was no coincidence that the date this booklet was uploaded onto the ‘academia.edu’ website - set up to facilitate communications between academicians- was the same as the emergency application to the EHRC. Well, they weren’t going to admit to prosecuting people for going on hunger strike, were they! It is obvious that they made an extra effort for the EHRC, considering the partisan press was on board, in a country where those that demand justice are accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation… If only, following its inconceivable decision, the EHRC had made more of an effort and witnessed the violence those supporting Nuriye and Semih, including human rights activists and lawyers, were subjected to; for taking part in sit-in protests and trying to talk to the media!
I must admit that I really struggled to not share the whole history of this case, every stage of which caused us great pain, since I received the assignment notice from Ankara Chamber of Physicians on 13 July. Once the ‘assigned Judge’ decided Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça could stay in Sincan CİK Hospital, as he saw no apparent danger that could cause irreparable damage to their organs and their life; I could not stand by anymore and summarised the process on twitter and believe that I must share some details here. I did seek permission of both through their lawyers.
The judge claims to have looked at all medical reports to arrive at his decision; despite demanding to see reports outlining the risk to their lives from Numune Hospital and the current hospital that they are held ‘against their wishes’; and my four separate reports, totalling 32 pages, that detail - with reasons - the risk to their lives and how this risk is linked to their confinement, bad treatment and torture; somehow he managed to overlook all this information. We should not be unfair to the judge, he did not overlook the part about them “not being able to live without support”, he also gave directives to the government to provide daily care for the pair; he has, however, decided to ignore the part about an attendant which was mentioned in their own contracts.
In the final part of the report on Semih Özakça, prepared after an examination at Sincan CİK Hospital, I had stated that “His arrest and removal of his freedom, in light of the advanced health problems he suffers due to prolonged hunger, and his inability to look after himself; the attitude of officials evidenced by an injury – taking longer to heal due to his prolonged hunger - he claims to have sustained after being hit by an officer in the leg with a detector, which he shared with his family and lawyers and which is consistent with his account in terms of location on his body and the type of injury; the inability to carry out medical observations and limited access to medical services under current conditions. The above can be classified as ‘torture’ by ‘officials’ as listed under ‘Other cruel treatment syndromes’ in the ‘ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders’ by the WHO; the removal of his freedom will not only increase his health problems due to prolonged hunger but also make the risk to his life certain as the necessary patient-doctor relationship cannot be established; hence risks cannot be monitored and appropriate treatments be administered; as medical monitoring under these conditions is not possible, it is impossible to remove the risk to life; therefore it is not appropriate that he is held in prison”. Following my linking the injury Semih suffered and the lack of access to health services with torture, the government responded with unfounded claims that I made a judgement on their health without even an examination. Theirs is an attempt to remove legitimacy using the well-versed tactic of ‘mud-slinging’ they adopted in the recent years.
It is clear why they chose me; they claim that I act as their lawyer rather than their doctor; their hope of trivialising me is verification that they know nothing about being a doctor. As I mentioned last week, when we start this profession we swear an oath that we’ll put our patient's interest first and yes, we take on the responsibility to be their voice.