Turkey jails Kurdish politician’s wife over typo in medical form

Turkey jails Kurdish politician’s wife over typo in medical form
Basak Demirtas, wife of Peoples' Democratic Party leader Selahattin Demirtas, arrives at a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections in the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 12 November 2021

Turkey jails Kurdish politician’s wife over typo in medical form

Turkey jails Kurdish politician’s wife over typo in medical form
  • Başak Demirtaş is the wife of one of the most important opposition figures detained by Erdogan in the post-coup crackdown
  • Case throws into doubt the integrity of Turkey’s legal system, an EU official said

The wife of a Kurdish politician in Turkey has been handed a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence over a typo in a medical report related to a miscarriage she had.

The case has been denounced as an “appalling” example of political persecution by an EU official.

A Diyarbakir court sentenced Başak Demirtaş, who is a teacher, and her doctor on Thursday for submitting a falsified medical report, a Kurdish news agency reported.

The case relates to hospital admissions and two surgeries that Demirtaş had following a miscarriage in 2015. Her legal team said she was charged with fraud because a doctor’s note requesting five days of medical leave was issued during an appointment on Dec. 11, but was erroneously dated Dec. 14, four days later.

She later took unpaid leave for months to recover from the incident.

Demirtaş’s husband, Selahattin Demirtaş, is the former leader of the pluralist, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, and is one of the high-profile political prisoners jailed in Turkey during the president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on opposition movements.

Nacho Sánchez Amor, the European parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, wrote on Twitter: “The sentence of (Başak Demirtaş) to 2.5 years of prison for a mere clerical error concerning a medical record is appalling and seems beyond common sense. It just looks so political. It gives the measure of the worrying state of the Turkish judiciary.”

Demirtas’s lawyers said that although the Diyarbakır court board ruled that the hospital record book showing the dates she attended should be submitted as evidence to show that a mistake was made, the court handed down the sentence without looking at it.

“While the truth is apparent, sentencing Başak Demirtaş as a result of such a trial is openly unlawful and grossly unfair … It is the product of a mentality of collective punishment,” Demirtaş’ team said. 

“In spite of this situation, we will keep on waging our legal struggle. We still believe that the ruling will be overturned by the (appeals court) and justice will be served.”

Selahattin Demirtaş was jailed when his party won enough seats in the 2015 general election to destroy Erdogan’s majority. He faces more than 100 charges, the majority of which are terrorism-related.

He denies all allegations against him.

The EU has been embroiled in a long-running dispute with Turkey over its failure to abide by European Court of Human Rights rulings, many of which pertain to political prisoners.

The court of human rights ordered Demirtaş’s immediate release last year, ruling that his detention goes against “the very core of the concept of a democratic society.”