CAP calls on feds to get moving on Indigenous woman stranded in Turkey

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is calling on the federal government to intervene on behalf of an Indigenous woman being held in Turkey on a drug-trafficking charge, and to bring her home immediately.

Charman Smith has been held in Turkey on a nine-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in 2016, and is currently being held in the community as a precaution against overcrowding and COVID-19 concerns. She can be called back to incarceration at any time.

Smith is a member of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and is a Canadian citizen.

CAP national Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin said Smith was denied legal representation and has denied any knowledge of involvement since her arrest for trafficking `khat’ while transferring flights from Kenya to Turkey on her way back to Canada.

In a virtual press conference earlier this month, Smith said she is dealing with some frightening health issues.

“I have a (mucous) retention cyst in my brain,” she said, “that could be fatal.”

Smith said she was an unknowing drug mule when she was arrested at a Turkish airport in 2016.

“I still don’t understand what kind of drugs I was carrying,” she said.

“I was carrying drugs in my luggage and I was in the lineup to get aboard my plane. And they had pulled me out of the lineup.”

Now, Smith is asking the government to bring her home and allow her to serve the rest of her sentence at home, and CAP is pushing the government to get it done sooner, rather than later. CAP is calling on Canadian Foreign Affairs minister Melanie Joly to intervene on Smith’s behalf directly, after having brought the case to the attention of the governments of Canada and Turkey on previous occasions to no avail.

“Smith faced countless systemic issues growing up in Canada including poverty, racism and exclusion. She is now facing more time in a Turkish prison, being denied the human rights Canadians take for granted,” Beaudin said, adding health concerns and the constant threat of violence inside Turkish prisons make the trauma even greater. “Ms. Smith has extensive life-threatening health issues and has already experienced violence and abuse within the Turkish justice system. The injustice must end.”

Having already served five years of her sentence, Smith was released in a form of house arrest due to COVID-19 concerns after she said the Turkish government freed a number of female prisoners for that reason.

The Canadian federal government lent her money to rent a small apartment and to buy food and medication, primarily for treatment of epilepsy.

In May, however, the government stopped sending the $300 per month and asked her to repay the loan.

“I was no longer going to have a place to stay,” she said. “I was no longer going to have food or my medicine. My medication is the most important because I’m an epileptic and if I do not have my medication I can go into multiple seizures.”

CAP sent money to cover Smith’s rent for June and is working on a fundraiser to help support her.

 Marc Lalonde  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.


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