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71-year-old jailed author Altan fails to get access to COVID-19 vaccine

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Prominent Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, 71, who has been behind bars for some five years, has failed to get a response to his efforts to get vaccinated against the coronavirus despite the fact that he is among the priority groups set by the Health Ministry, according to his daughter.

“Although he submitted a petition [to the prison administration] for the [coronavirus] vaccine, he failed to get a response. It appears there are no vaccines for Silivri. Does anyone have an answer for this?” Altan’s daughter Sanem tweeted on Thursday, referring to Silivri Prison in İstanbul where her father and most of Turkey’s political prisoners are jailed.

As of Feb. 11 people aged 65 and over began to be vaccinated, meaning that Altan should also be given the opportunity to be inoculated as part of his age group.

On Jan. 14 Turkey began coronavirus vaccination of its healthcare workers with CoronaVAC, developed by China’s Sinovac, against the coronavirus after the country’s health regulator, the Turkish Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

According to a priority list announced by Turkey’s Health Ministry in January, the vaccines were first administered to healthcare professionals and pharmacy staff and then to the elderly and disabled as well as nursing home personnel.

Altan was arrested shortly after a July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. He was initially sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2018 for alleged links to Gülen movement, a faith-based group that is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt.

The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the lower court that handed down life sentences to Altan and a group of other journalists who stood trial with him. Altan was a given prison sentence of 10 years, six months in a retrial on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, in early November 2019. He spent a total of 1,138 days in prison until his release on Nov. 4, 2019. He was re-arrested one week later and is still behind bars.

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