RSF: Turkish gov’t violating right of presumed innocence with prison uniforms

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Relatives of Vedat Bagcerci, a victim of July 15 failed coup bid, hold uniforms like orange jumpsuits used at US military prison at Guantanamo Bay with a noose while chanting slogan for death penalty against Gülen movement members on July 17, 2017 in front of Istanbul's courthouse. Turkish President Erdogan said on July 17 during a rally the suspects being tried over the failed coup should wear uniform clothing like the notorious orange jumpsuits used at US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticized a Turkish emergency rule decree that introduces a single uniform for people imprisoned in a post-coup purge carried out by the Turkish government, saying it violates the prisoners’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In a written statement on Thursday RSF said the “arbitrary measure will violate the right of dozens of detained Turkish journalists to be presumed innocent.”

According to the government’s post-coup emergency decree No 696, people jailed on charges of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt will have to wear a brown uniform while those charged under the terrorism law will have to wear a grey one during court appearances.

“These two categories of charges, which are defined in an extremely vague and broad manner, have been systematically brought against the victims of the 18-month-old purge in Turkey, who have included many journalists,” RSF said.

“The sole aim of this measure is to humiliate, intimidate and stigmatize the detainees concerned,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “In violation of the right to be presumed innocent, imprisoned journalists will be identified with the perpetrators of the bloody coup attempt of 15 July 2016. We call for the immediate repeal of this decree, which constitutes yet another step in the Turkish judicial system’s transformation into an instrument of political revenge.”

The new measures will be enforced in a month’s time following a notice by the Justice Ministry. All detainees except pregnant women and minors will have to wear a uniform in court.

“Many prisoners may refuse to wear the uniform with as yet unknown consequences that could include being barred from appearing in court. The obligation to wear a uniform led to waves of hunger strikes in the 1980s in which several political prisoners died,” RSF also warned.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in mid-July that people detained over coup charges should wear a single uniform, as in Guantanamo. “When they appear in court, let’s make them appear in identical uniforms, like in Guantanamo,” he said during an Istanbul rally to mark the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. (Turkey Purge)

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