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Boğaziçi students join victims of Turkey’s strip-searches, deposition shows

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Some students who were detained during demonstrations in protest of the appointment of a rector to the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been subjected to strip-searches, according to MP and rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu as well as an attorney for the students.

Dozens of students have been detained since the demonstrations began earlier this week following the appointment of Professor Melih Bulu, a Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate from İstanbul in the 2015 general election, as the university’s rector. Many saw the appointment as an attempt to politicize Turkey’s universities and a direct intervention into academic freedom.

Gergerlioğlu, who for the past month has been campaigning for the banning of strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention facilities despite a strong denial of its existence from the AKP government, on Wednesday displayed a deposition from one of the students who was detained during the demonstrations at Boğaziçi.

In the deposition the student said they wanted to exercise their right to remain silent but also felt compelled to explain that they were subjected to a strip-search while in detention and that plastic handcuffs were intentionally tightened to inflict pain.

The claims of rampant strip-search were strongly denied by AKP deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin, who in a statement last month accused Gergerlioğlu of terrorizing the legislature by bringing such allegations to the floor of parliament. Zengin said she does not believe in the existence of strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention facilities, which prompted scores of women as well as men to share on social media their experiences of strip-searches.

“Did you say there were no strip searches in Turkey?” Gergerlioğlu asked Zengin as he brandished a copy of the deposition.

In the meantime Ezgi Önalan, a lawyer representing 17 Boğaziçi students who were detained during the protests, told the Anka news agency on Tuesday that her clients were subjected to strip-searches and beatings while in police custody.

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