BOLD EXCLUSIVE – Investigations against the death of English teacher Halime Gülsu, who died on 28 April 2018 in Tarsus Prison where her medications were not given and her treatment was delayed, are tried to be stalled by Mersin and Tarsus prosecutors’ offices.
The Mersin Public Prosecutor’s Office has given a verdict of non-prosecution in the investigation launched against the officers in Mersin Anti-Terror Police (TEM) and the doctor of Tarsus State Hospital on 16 May 2019.
The Tarsus Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has also given a verdict of non-prosecution in the investigation launched against prison officials On 18 March 2019. Seven months later, the family was reported about the decision last week as a result of the insistence of brother Irfan Gülsu.
The Gülsu family objected to both decisions, but no feedback was given so far. The civil society organization Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed (MAZLUM-DER) published a report proving that there was severe negligence in Halime Gülsu’s death in May 2019 with the initiatives and efforts of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission Member and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who follows the Gülsu case diligently. But both Prosecutor’s Office did not take the report into account and did not hear the witnesses.
There are 22 witnesses of death by neglect
Gülsu was detained on 20 February 2018 and her funeral was released from prison on 28 April 2018 and she has 22 ward friends who can testify about the treatment she was subjected to in approximately two months’ period.
BOLD Media has interviewed two ward friends F.D. and Z.A. demonstrate that Gülsu did not lose her life with a ‘normal course of death’ as the prosecutor stated, she was deliberately left for dead.
First witness F.D. tells; I saw her struggling for her medications
Halime and I were detained on the same day and we were detained in the same place. Already in those days, Halime began to ask about her medications. We were both taking the same drugs. We both had the same originated disease. I saw her struggling for her ‘medicines’ with the people she was dealing with. She was asking for her report, trying to tell that her medication was low. This struggle continued until 28 April 2018. It was a very troublesome process.
When she was taken into custody, she took the report along with her, but the police lost the report in the police station. They arrested us on the same day. They took us to Tarsus Prison. We spent 3 days under extremely poor conditions and in an extremely unhealthy place called temporary ward. Then they put us in the same ward again. During this time, Halime’s medications were still missing. She kept writing petitions for the infirmary. I was writing too, but it was difficult to get to the infirmary.
I went into the bathroom on 10-12th days, during that time the jail door’s porthole was opened and I heard my name being read. They said, prepare to go to the infirmary. But Halime’s name was not read. Halime asked me through the door, “can I go instead of you?” she asked. I was in the bathroom and I said, “Yes, you can go and take care of yourself”
They got angry at her by saying why you came!
Then she went. They got angry at her by saying why you came! She told that I was sick too. She explained her disease. One week later, she was taken to the internal medicine department of Tarsus State Hospital. She told about her illness in the hospital too. The doctor just made the routine examinations. The proper investigations were not made to reveal Halime’s disease, or rather the doctor did not make any detailed medical workup.
Then Halime was brought back to the ward. We didn’t have a chance to get the results and go to the doctor. The officer in charge takes the results, shows them to the doctor, the doctor diagnoses and writes the medicines. But there was nothing in Halime’s test results at that time.
These are not medical workup of my illness
Moreover, the officer came and threw the reports, and “You have nothing and you say ‘you’re sick’” she said. Halime asked, “Am I making myself sick, what does that mean? I’m sick”. She looked at the reports and, “These are not medical workup of my illness. The medical workup of my disease has not been requested or made. ” she said.
Then she wrote petition again for the infirmary. She wrote to the President. Here is a system called the president’s opinion (deputy warden’s decision). He is a deputy warden. You should see him first. Halime and I were together again at the first president’s opinion session Halime said, “Please, my illness is certain, the officer in charge told me ‘I am healthy!’ But investigations and medical workup for my illness have not been made. That is so I’m a sufferer. I couldn’t take my medication for so long.” And by this time, 20-25 days had passed.
Once again they took Halime to the hospital. But of course, it took a week to go. Things don’t work right away. She went back to the infirmary, the infirmary wrote to the gendarmerie, the gendarmerie arranged the appointments… Tarsus State Hospital also referred her to the City Hospital. Then finally she was referred to the City Hospital.
After a while, Halime began to get sick
We were detained on February 20, 2018, for 12 days. We stayed in a temporary ward for 3 days. So it took quite a while to get referred to Hospital. More or less one or two months passed. And Halime began to get sick, and the disease began to show up. Halime tired, Halime weak. On the other hand, she was struggling. My doctor, my medications.
She was supposed to use a certain drug, but she couldn’t use it because her medical report was missing. The report was not found at all. She kept going to the infirmary. She said “If you look at the computer records, it can be found”, but the computer system was not functioning all the time. There was a lot of negativity. In fact, the physician of the prison committee would easily see everything about her illness when she entered to the computer system with her ID number. Because Halime had been struggling with this disease for 15 years. She had known the course of her illness. She was a doctor for her illness. She was sure about what would happen if she couldn’t use her medicine. Already in prison conditions, nutrition was a serious problem. We had 22 people in the 10-person ward, we had 2 children with us too. There were one bathroom and one toilet, a completely distressed place.
She wrote to six different institutions
Then Halime was referred to the City Hospital. But it was not clear when she would be taken. Halime decided not to remain silent and wrote what she had experienced since 20 February. She wrote to 6 different institutions. She wrote to the prison prosecutor, prosecutor, the Ministry of Justice, the Turkish Republic Presidential Communication Center (BİMER and CİMER) about what she had been through.
The first time we had a contact visitation was Wednesday on April 25, 2018. She passed away three days later. On the day of contact visitation, they took Halime to the City Hospital. Halime delivered the letters she wrote on the same day by sealed tender.
Sealed tender letter
When you say ‘by sealed tender’, the management does not open the envelope. Prisoners have such a right. Normally they read the letters, but they can’t open it when a note is put on the envelope like ‘I don’t want it to be read’. We didn’t know such things, and we couldn’t have a chance to know too. But Lawyer friends in the ward helped us in this sense. We wrote it because they said it was a right and that it could be exercised. Otherwise, the chance of those letters to go out of prison is zero. We’re still not sure. A letter was 4-5 pages in total. She couldn’t write sometimes because she was too weak, and some friends helped her to write the letters. She was getting really tired.
I’m going to ask for hospitalization
She delivered the paperwork. She went to the hospital. On her way, she said, “I’m going to ask for hospitalization today.” I said, “But I don’t know if they’re going to do it.” And she went out. She also told the officer about she would want to be hospitalized. The officer said to her “It’s not that easy.” too.
When the guardian said so, she couldn’t claim it and she thought they wouldn’t do it. She then said to me, “The prison officer said ‘it wasn’t easy at all’, and I didn’t make a request.” And she didn’t want to get tired around there. She had no strength. On the one hand, we are worried about whether they would hospitalize her or not. On the one hand, that day was the first contact visitation day, we were wondering if she would be able to see her brother. We were in a dilemma. It would be OK, only if she was hospitalized, but on the one hand, this was her first contact visitation day.
While we were thinking about what will end, Halime came 10 minutes before the contact visitation. They were taken her to the City Hospital and made medical workups and the results will be ready after 15 days they said.
Then she met her brother. We even sat side by side. I talked to my lawyer a few days ago and told him about Halime’s sickness. I told to my lawyer that “This girl still doesn’t have a lawyer, she’s in trouble, and we’re still having trouble supply her meds.”
The next day towards lunch, Halime felt better. Our friends prepared breakfast in the yard. She hadn’t eaten anything till that time. They took Halime by force, she didn’t want to come. She ate some food and finished her breakfast. She ate, we liked it. So she could recover. We were concerned about her. On the one hand, we were upset. It was the last meal she ate with enjoyment.
Halime Gülsu and her mother Zeynep Gülsu.
Her hands were like ice, her head was boiling from the heat
Then Halime went upstairs. I was praying. A while after, I looked at her, she gasped and fell over the heater. I asked, “How are you?” She said, “Don’t break your prayer.” I held her, I made her lied over a friend’s bed right away, and I continued to pray. One or two friends came and started to take care of her.
One of her friends in the ward said, “Look at this girl’s hands are icy, but it’s like her brain is boiling.” said. I checked and her hands were like ice and she was sweaty, but her head was boiling from the heat. I said let’s ask for a sphygmomanometer. I went to the stairs, but when I was in prayer it had been already requested. We measured her tension but no results.
She got stiffened, livid and she was in a really bad situation
All of a sudden, Halime got stiffened, livid and she was in a really bad situation. Imagine something like this happening in a place with two tiny kids. Of course, we all started struggling, some of us knocking on the door, some of us pushing the button, to make someone come quickly.
At that time, Halime’s stiffness got better, she opened her eyes. Of course, we didn’t know what to do. That’s when the officers came.
I said she had a fatal disease but they didn’t listen
“What happened? Who did she argue with? Who did she fight with? Why is she in this condition?” they began to ask questions. She was not discussed with anyone, not quarreled, she did not say anything to anyone. I said she had a fatal disease. I kept using the word fatal because they didn’t want to understand.
Then the ambulance came. The officers were used to things like ‘people in prison can have a nervous breakdown, argue, etc.’ They thought of such thing was happening to Halime at that moment too. We said, “who will take responsibility if something happens to her, this girl is very sick.” We barely convinced them to take her to the hospital.
It was a two-story place, with a suspended ceiling. The dormitory was above, the kitchen and toilet were under it. We wanted to take Halime downstairs, we requested a stretcher, no stretcher. How a patient in such a condition would go downstairs? Four friends clasped their hands, took Halime in their arms, and went down the stairs. Not only the medics and also the officers of the institution just stared at them.
No stretcher in a place where 570 people staying
We don’t mind carrying our friend, but there’s nothing worse than having no stretcher in a place where 570 people and almost 80 children staying. They brought a wheelchair in front of the door. They didn’t even take it inside. We made her sat on it. We don’t know what happened afterward, they took Halime. They brought her back in the evening.
They took her to the emergency room, they diagnosed her with flu. She was put on an IV drip, they gave her something antipyretic, like Parol. That treatment caused Halime to feel a little good. She came back, but the girl was actually in need of intensive care. She was conscious, but she had no strength at all.
Second attack in the ward
I couldn’t get near Halime. I was standing far away with the worry that I would cry very violently. Friends were trying to make her eaten something. Then she ate fruit. 3 minutes after, Halime suffered another attack in the same way. On Thursday, we tried to send her to the doctor twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Everyone there would testify about it.
We carried Halime to downstairs again with our arms. We barely persuaded officers to send her to the hospital. The door opened at about 2:30 pm at night, everyone went down. And I woke up, they said, “Halime came.” I went down and spoke with Halime. I asked about what happened. “I was put on an IV drip, and nothing else,” she answered.
We started to take turns to not leave her alone
I was lying on the mattress that was on the ground in the ward because there was no other place. The friends said “Halime is too weak to go downstairs, Let’s not move her down like this every time! Can we move your mattress downstairs for her?” I answered, of course. We brought the bed downstairs. We made Halime laid there. We started to take turns to not leave her alone there.
Everybody was trying to do their best. I took over the turn from 9 to 12 in the morning. She wasn’t eating, I asked, “Halime, would you drink a glass of water?” She drank a few sips of water, she didn’t eat anything. She was lying quietly. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t sobbing, she wasn’t rebelling, and she wasn’t saying anything. She was just lying there.
You know, sometimes people are embarrassed by what they think of, or how I thought about it. That was what I felt. I went to her bed and she was lying down. She was pale. “God, will this girl die?” I thought. Then I can’t tell you how I wanted to run away. Where would I go, how to hide, how I thought of something like this.
Then they took Halime to the infirmary. They kept him there until 5:00 p.m. She was put on an IV drip again. They brought Halime to the top of the stairs in a wheelchair around 17:30. ‘Take your friend’ officers said and left. Friends got her from the stairs to bring inside the ward.
On Friday evening (April 27, 2019), they tried to take Halime around 10:30 pm. She didn’t want to go anymore… She couldn’t attend the headcounts for days. And the officers were coming up and saying to her, “Ma’am, ma’am, are you okay?” They were behaving as if why did you brought us here.
Take me to the hospital, please
Then, they took Halime. We never saw her again. One week before Halime’s illness reach to its peak, something happened, I skipped it: It was an evening, we were sitting, ‘I don’t feel well, I’ll say take me to the doctor.’ she said, ‘Are you going to say it now?, I asked,‘ Yes, I think my illness has reached its peak. She replied and she pushed the button. She said she wanted to see a doctor. They took her. They made her sat in a place they call aquarium. We thought she was taken to the hospital.
The “Aquarium” is a place where the officials sit. Since the area is full of glass, they call it an aquarium. They kept Halime there for quite a while. Then the ambulance came and checked her blood pressure. And they said you have nothing. Halime also told them about her disease, stated that she could not take her medication, ‘I think the course of my disease is not going well, so I need to do my examinations, please take me to the hospital’, she said. This was before she was taken to the City Hospital.
Apparently, you are bored
When she said so, they thought that Halime is bored. Because in there, especially forensic prisoners claim themselves as sick when they are bored, they made officers call an ambulance. Some kind of excuse to go out and get some fresh air. Such negligent acts…
It was Saturday (April 28, 2019) in the morning. No news from Halime, nothing. We asked the guards, some say ‘we don’t know’, some say ‘she is in the hospital’, and some say other things. But there was no concrete information about Halime. We spent that day praying with the hope that they made her hospitalized.
Suddenly, they started to treat us well
It was morning on Sunday, still no news. A friend had a panic attack. Halime didn’t come back, so she panicked. I was not good either. We were pushing the button, the sphygmomanometer comes in immediately. I asked if I had a diabetes meter. Officers ran and brought a diabetes meter. It was on Sunday. I said to friends; something isn’t right about this, why are they so interested in us? I don’t like this interest, there’s something wrong in here.
They looked at our friend’s blood sugar level, they tried to make me witness everything they did, and they showed me everything; this is blood sugar level, this is blood pressure level… I said “there’s something wrong again. I don’t like it.”
We wonder if Halime’s condition got worse, and they were treating us good so as not to be under suspicion, but we had no news that Halime had passed away. And, yes, they had been doing so to avoid being suspected. That day was the phone call day. We went out in two groups, we were hoping to hear from Halime.
The whole ward had a “sobbing fit”
Then they came, put us on the phone. I don’t know what TV channel, my husband saw a subtitle that a woman with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) died. My husband told me but didn’t give a name. I hoped that wasn’t Halime. I couldn’t tell to others that there was such a thing, but I hope she was not Halime. But there was a silence among the friends who went after me. Everybody was trying to remain silent since there were children in the ward. I looked in their eyes and said, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘tell me, what’s going on?’ Naturally, the whole ward had a sobbing fit then.
I screamed as long as I could, ‘You are all killers’
We heard the news, of course, everybody freaked out. After that my blood pressure suddenly increased, one of our friends was stunned. Everyone there experienced something different. We had two kids in there, we were trying not to hurt them. One of the officers took the children away. Fortunately, they wouldn’t be there. We hardly controlled ourselves. I screamed as long as I could, ‘You are all killers, you killed that woman, and you killed such a good person.’
The missing ambulances were there
When we learn Halime’s death, in case someone would have a heart attack or something else, ambulances were waiting at the prison door. That was Sunday. The missing ambulances that we requested to take Halime to the hospital were there that day. When everyone got so bad, they took us from there with the ambulances.
Then the (warden) director of the institution came; his wife had been sick too, the man was going to hospitals for a week, he came and said, “God damn these doctors.” He used this expression. “My wife hasn’t been diagnosed for a week,” he said. They couldn’t diagnose your wife. This girl’s disease was evident, little action was required. You had to press a few keys to get the girl’s report and get her medication. That would be all. Then he came and said something like: ‘my friends told me, everyone told me. You’re right etc.’
We all had a Rotavirus disease
When we first entered there, we all had a rotavirus disease. Within 10-15 days, the whole ward experienced vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain. We had a ten-month-old baby. It started on her, then everyone. They took us to the hospital in two separate groups for serum. So Halime went through all that too.
When the director talked to us, friends said; we wrote infirmary, but we could not go to the doctor. Our former friends had such problems too. We got blood pressure problems, we got heart diseases, and we got diabetic issues. A friend had cervical cancer. They released her after the illness. A lot of grievances.
They tried not to record what we said
After Halime’s death, they said that one day your statements will be taken. They were trying to acquit themselves. Lawyer friends warned us. They said whether verbal or written, do not sign if what you say is not written. We started to testify. They try to acquit themselves all the time. All friends experienced the same thing. They did not accept the written statements. They tried to write down by reducing the impact of what we said. We insisted that we wanted to read first, then we wanted to sign.
For example, we indicated the letters that Halime sent to 6 different institutions. They made an effort not to record these. I was asking about why there was no stretcher in a place with so many people. They answered, was your friend died because there was no stretcher?
The prison officers had no fault! They said it was the doctor’s fault. But it was not the prison doctor’s fault, it was the hospital doctor’s fault. The institution doctor had no fault in this sense! They tried not to record what we said. Although we had repeatedly called it a deadly disease, no one had ever investigated what kind of disease it was.
We begged for a call to her brother
On the night Halime was taken, we asked them to call her brother, we begged to the officers. We asked them to call Halime’s doctor, who has been monitoring her illness for years. If they called him, Halime’s condition would be better diagnosed. We had said different formulas, but none of them had been done, they hadn’t been utilized. They tried not to record what we told them. We said we wouldn’t sign first. After putting the note that we demand to testify again if we have something forgot or something to remember later, we have signed the statements.
We have been justified
We don’t know what happened to those statements. But some friends heard something like this from the officers’ talks: ‘We have been justified on this matter. The girl really died because of negligence…’
Imagine that you’re seriously ill, and the medication arrives you after 3-5 weeks. The infirmary doctor was a very ignorant physician. She had no knowledge of drugs. She wasn’t listening, so she was careless.
When they brought us to court, they made us seen the prosecutor one by one. A lawyer appointed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK) for Halime because she did not have a lawyer. She told both the prosecutor and the lawyer about her illness. The lawyer said we would ask for her release because she did not have her report at hand. She was hopeful.
Mersin Public Prosecutor’s Office knew about her disease. I think the prosecutor disregarded the lawyer’s request due to the loss of Halime’s report in there. Verbal expression was not enough for them to make her released because they think that anyone can say anything to be released.
The investigation must be initiated from those who detained Halime and lost her report. If the report had not been lost, the prosecutor would have decided to release her. They released another patient. The disappearance of that report in the anti-terror police station (TEM) caused a lot of suffering. But of course, couldn’t this report be reached? It could be very easily reached. The doctor could easily access that report by pressing a few keys on the computer.