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Turkey denies torture

Kürsat AkyolJuly 28, 2016

Thousands of people in Turkey have been detained in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt. A report from rights group Amnesty International alleges widespread torture has taken place, though Ankara denies these claims.

Türkei Verhaftungen nach Putschversuch
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Kula

Amnesty International said in a report earlier this week that those held in official and unofficial detention centers around Turkey have allegedly been subjected to torture and beatings, including rape.

Andrew Gardner, one of two Amnesty International researchers who prepared the report, told DW that lawyers do not want to be assigned to the cases involving detainee maltreatment, and many of those exposed to torture and abuse do not want to talk about it.

"I've worked on the subject of human rights in Turkey for more than 10 years, and I've never seen this kind of fear. This great fear is present among people and in civil society organizations. Working on human rights in Turkey requires bravery, particularly for domestic human rights organizations, journalists and lawyers. If these brave people are that scared, it means this is serious," Gardner said.

Fear for families

According Senel Karatas, head of the Instanbul branch of the Human Rights Foundation (IHD), this fear has spread to the families of alleged torture victims. Karatas said that more than 30 people have appealed to the rights group. "They come in, explain their situation, and leave. They are afraid for themselves and [their loved ones] who have been victimized, and they don't follow up,” Karatas said.

Türkei Izmir Verhaftungen nach Putschversuch
More than 8,000 people remain in custody following the wave of post-coup arrests in TurkeyImage: picture-alliance/AA/E. Atalay

"The concepts of patriot and traitor have become entrenched very quickly. This traitor characterization can quickly spread to the families. As such, the families get punished as well. They are even worried about their children asking, because they are in the situation where they have been revealed as the loved one of a traitor to the nation. On one hand, there is the matter of protecting a traitor, on the other there is the fear of being mobbed,” Karatas said.

Difficulty reaching lawyers

Human rights advocates believe when detainees are unable to see their lawyers, it paves the way for abuse.

Lawyer Deniz Bilgen is from the Ankara Bar Association's Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK) center, which appoints attorneys to those in need. According to Bilgen, those detained in connection to the coup attempt are not allowed to choose their own legal representation.

Türkei Gefängnis Antalya
The abuse has allegedly taken place at detention centers around the countryImage: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Bozoglu

"In the [courthouse] you can see people that have been beaten up and with broken noses. There are people with their arms and legs covered in bruises and with blood in their hands," Bilgen told DW, adding that lawyers who attempt to photograph their clients and report their findings face pressure and threats from the police.

"While taking photographs, one lawyer had his cell phone confiscated by police, who deleted all the photos and threatened and insulted him. The police asked 'Are you a part of this organization? Why are you taking photographs? Do you want to be added to this investigation?' and then kicked him out of the police station," Bilgen said, adding she does not believe defendants can receive fair trials when legal violations are occurring from the very start of the process.

Ankara denies claims of torture

The Turkish government published its first denial of the torture claims on the Ministry of Justice website. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag then said on television that the Amnesty International report is not based on reality, and that individual health reports verify the conditions of suspects before and after being taken into custody. "These reports are out and in the open. None of them confirm these claims, on the contrary, they refute them," Bozdag said.

Bozdag said that injuries seen on the face of alleged coup leader and former Turkish Air Force commander Akin Ozturk were because Ozturk fell out of a helicopter during the coup attempt. "A number of lies are being spread," Bozdag said.