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83 years old woman Makbule Ozer was sent to prison for the second time, after she was found unwell in the first time

Makbule Ozer, 83-year-old woman living in predominantly Kurdish, Southeast region of Turkiye was arrested in April 2024. She was charged for being a member or a terrorist organisation, and “willingly aiding a terrorist or a terrorist organisation”. This refers to an occasion when someone was brought to her house for help that was later found to be associated with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as she provides herbal treatment in her village. During the trial, she repeatedly mentioned that she has no personal knowledge or connection to the person referred or the terrorist organisation; she was only offering herbal treatment as her role is known in the village. 

The legal process has been ongoing since July 2018, where she was detained with all her family members. Makbule Ozer and her husband Hadi Ozer were charged for 2 years and 6 months in which they were arrested in May 2022. However, Makbule Ozer was released in September 202 as she was not found fit to serve in prison by ATK (Turkish: Adli Tip Kurumu, Turkey’s Forensic Medicine Institution) to be reviewed again in a year. During her prison time, her health has been deteriorating due to her disability and medical care needed, as she is getting older as well. Her husband was released in January 2023, after he fully served his prison sentence even though he has also been seriously ill. 

In April 2024, Ozer’s medical case was reviewed and was found fit to serve in prison. She was arrested for the second time in Van. In one month of her stay, her health has been getting worse, reported by her family members. Currently in May 2024, she is sent to Istanbul to assess whether she is fit to serve in prison by ATK. 

The case of Makbule Ozer includes many human rights violations. While she is being charged for helping a person in need, just like other people that come to get advice for her knowledge in natural remedies; she was not aware and cannot be imprisoned for someone else’s association with a terrorist group. Her age, disability and worsening medical conditions also prove that she should not be put in prison, where it proved to degenerate her wellbeing. The inconsistency shown by formal agencies of ATK, as she was found unfit, and was found fit a year later and is now reviewed again indicates the lack of care for her current condition. ATK has been recently criticised for its complicity in detention of sick prisoners, especially political prisoners. Makbule Ozer’s health conditions should not be tested in a prison environment.

In many ways, this case is seen as a political case with systemic injustices towards Kurdish people. Makbule Ozer’s first and only language is Kurdish and inadequate access to her right to have an interpreter during her appeal to ATK also should be highlighted. The leader of the opposition party (CHP, Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, English: the Republican People’s Party) leader Ozgul Ozel referred to the case as “ this is not power, this is not justice, this is not counter-terrorism”. The legal injustices Kurdish people face in Turkey can be seen in many struggles Makbule Ozer is facing during her trial. 

We, as Rights Defenders, condemn the political-driven motivation behind Makbule Ozer’s unlawful criminalisation and ill-treatment in the process should be dropped to prevent further deterioration of her conditions. No person should be charged for helping a person in need for a treatment they can provide. In this context, Makbule Ozer is known for her herbal treatments in the area and cannot be charged for helping someone that was brought to her house for her treatment methods. Furthermore, her disability and medical assistance required, and worsening condition in prison was documented; and she should not be put under the same conditions in prison where it was seen to have an impact on her health. Throughout this, the legal process should allow for adequate interpreters to allow for expression of her right to defend herself. 


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