The International Press Institute (IPI) today called for the immediate release of Turkey journalist Metin Duran, who is being held at Sincan prison in Ankara despite having suffered a crippling heart attack and stroke. IPI also urged Turkey’s Constitutional Court to evaluate a pending appeal on Duran’s case without delay.

Duran, a newspaper and radio journalist for the now-shuttered Radyo Rengin, has been held in the prison’s hospital wing since March 30, 2018, despite having reportedly lost 93 percent of his physical and mental functions after a heart attack and stroke in 2015. Duran’s family has been waiting for a medical report on his condition for over five months in order to have him transferred to a facility where he can receive proper medical treatment.

In March, Duran was taken from his bed and brought to Since Prison after the Mardin 1. High Criminal Court confirmed a sentence against him of three years, one month and 15 days on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization whilst not being a member”. He was held in a prison cell for two days before being transferred to the hospital wing.

Radyo Rengin, which broadcasted from the Kızıltepe district of Turkey’s Mardin province in three languages (Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic), was raided by police and shut down by a decree law on September 28, 2016, along with 22 other radio and TV stations.

His friends and family have started an online petition, demanding his release. Medeni Duran, the journalist’s brother, told IPI the family was doing everything it could to have him freed from the prison hospital.

“A person under these conditions cannot be held in prison”, Medeni Duran said. “He is not even able to realize where he is.”

According to Medeni Duran, the charges against his brother date back to before his health problems.

“This is not the only case against him”, he noted. “Several other criminal probes were opened against him, and he was even briefly taken into custody while working for Radyo Rengin. This case in question was filed way before he got sick.”

After the heart attack, Metin Duran was taken care of by his wife and brother and sought medical treatment in hospitals in Ankara, Istanbul and Mardin. “But there was not much to do”, Medeni Duran told IPI.

The journalist’s family has appealed the court sentence and requested a medical disability report for the journalist from the Forensic Medicine Institution (ATK). Duran is currently being cared for in the hospital prison by one of his siblings, who has no criminal conviction. A month ago, Duran’s family appealed to the Constitutional Court (AYM) to revoke his sentence but so far there has been no response from the court.

The ATK’s protracted reporting process is the leading problem for inmates requiring medical assessment in Turkey. Reportedly, there are still hundreds of detained and arrested inmates awaiting ATK reports in prison hospitals. Turkey’s minister of justice revealed last year that 451 people have died in prison in the last five years. Even in cases in which the ATK did produce reports confirming a critical health condition, some inmates still died in prison hospitals because the relevant court did not accept the report and ruled that that the release of these prisoners could pose a risk to public safety.

According to a 2015 Report by Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s (TBMM) Commission on Human Rights, deficient initial examinations of prisoners are one of the main problems in the delay of ATK reports. A wrong or deficient diagnosis extends the reporting process, which severely impacts patients’ critical state of health. The Commission’s report also found that the process of obtaining a final report from ATK, which is overwhelmed with applications, might take up to ten months, endangering the lives of many sick inmates.

Notably, Turkey’s Regulation for the Implementation of Forensic Medicine Law stresses that among the applications brought to the ATK, those of defendants who have been arrested or are in pretrial detention have priority in terms of being assessed.

According to reports and to family members, Duran is 93 percent disabled and cannot move or speak. On October 10, 2015, journalist he went to Mardin State hospital complaining of heart pain. After he told the doctor that he lived in Nusaybin, where heavy conflict between the outlawed PKK and the Turkish army was taking place at the time, he was told his problem was “psychological” due to the clashes in the region, and was sent home. That night, Duran suffered the heart attack and then stroke.

IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford called on local and international groups to raise their voices against Duran’s unjust case.

“There is clear protocol in the case of such severely ill prisoners”, Stockford said. “Metin Duran’s medical report should be produced immediately by the ATK, and we call for his release and transfer to a facility where he can receive proper medical treatment.”