Rights group says prison guards threatened with jail when they refuse to torture inmates

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Founding President of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı said on Sunday that some prison guards who refused to follow orders from their supervisors to torture inmates were threatened with imprisonment over links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of being behind a failed coup last year.

Speaking to the Cumhuriyet daily in an interview on Sunday, Fincancı said there is an extensive practice of torture in Turkish jails especially during the emergency rule that was imposed following the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Complaining about government decrees that protect the torturer instead of the tortured, Fincancı said the TİHV encourages victims of torture to submit their cases to their branches; however, victims face numerous complications such as difficulty in accessing medical reports, the bureaucracy and threats.

According to Fincancı, several prison guards were threatened by their supervisors when they refused to torture inmates.

There have been several cases since the July 15 [coup attempt] in which prison guards were reported or threatened to be reported as FETÖ members when they refuse to use violence against inmates,” she said.

FETÖ,” or the “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization,” is a derogatory term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016.

Although the Gülen strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the AKP government launched a wide-ranging witch-hunt against Gülen followers that led to the purge of more than 146,000 people from state jobs, the detention of nearly 125,00 and the arrest of over 58,000.

Human rights group Amnesty International reported after the failed coup that it had received credible evidence of detainees in Turkey being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape.

In December 2016, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer talked about an environment conducive to torture following the coup attempt. He noted that Turkey is not following up on investigating torture allegations.

Melzer’s visit, the first by a UN torture expert to Turkey since 1998, came a month after US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Turkish police of torturing detainees.

On Oct. 27, in a 43-page report titled “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards Against Torture,” HRW documented 13 specific abuse incidents concerning Turkey’s post-coup detainees. The alleged abuse cases ranged from the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation to severe beatings, sexual abuse and the threat of rape.

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