Young Turkish prisoner found dead in prison ward

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Photo by Uriel Soberanes (Unsplash)

Burak Cihangir, a 26-year-old man who was recently put under arrest in İskenderun in southern Turkey, was found hanging in the toilet of the prison ward where he was held, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Thursday.

Cihangir’s body was delivered to his family following an autopsy while an investigation was reportedly launched into the young man’s death by the İskenderun Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In the past, İskenderun’s prison facilities have been the subject of reports about rights violations and torture perpetrated on prisoners.

Thirty-eight prisoners, including members of the Kurdish political movement, were allegedly tortured for refusing to submit to strip searches in İskenderun. Furthermore, the prisoners were reportedly denied treatment afterwards.

Tens of people, among whom were purged police officers, prosecutors and teachers, have been found dead in Turkish prisons since a failed coup attempt in 2016, raising concerns about the fate of thousands of people kept behind bars under poor conditions across the country.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported in one of its studies that there has been a recent increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, mostly in jails and detention centers where torture and ill-treatment are being perpetrated. In the majority of the cases, without conducting any effective and independent investigation, Turkish authorities concluded that they were suicides.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place outside prisons amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled over a hundred cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in searchable database format.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the abortive putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pinned the blame on the faith-based Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, the US-based cleric who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan – who once called the incident “a gift from God” – and the AKP-led government initiated a widespread crackdown targeting real or perceived sympathizers of the movement.

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