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182 people killed, 371 maltreated, tortured in Turkey in March: report

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Cases of human rights violations in Turkey in March included 182 deaths and 371 incidents of torture and maltreatment, with 233 of them taking place in prisons, a report drafted by Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), revealed on Saturday.

The report by Tanrıkulu, a prominent human rights activist and deputy chair of a parliamentary committee on human rights, said 142 workers, 28 women, five inmates and three refugees were among those whose right to life was violated last month.

The MP’s report further showed that the right to freedom of speech of 173 people was violated in March, with investigations launched into five members of the press; eight journalists, authors or publishers convicted; six members of the press detained; and a journalist attacked.

Turkish authorities in March blocked access to 129 URLs, which included links to critical media outlets such as the T24, Diken and Gazete Duvar news websites in addition to the Sözcü and Evrensel daily websites.

According to the report, Turkish police intervened in at least 25 demonstrations, public press statements and gatherings last month, detaining at least 324 people, including 12 minors, and arresting one among those who attended the events. At least nine similar events were banned by provincial and district governors’ offices.

Regarding violations of freedom of association, which were reported to be 25 incidents in total in March, 15 mayors, lawmakers and association members were arrested, while six of them were handed down either prison sentences or fines.

One of them was Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights advocate and former deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who was stripped of his status in parliament on March 17 based on a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to him on terrorism charges.

The 55-year-old politician, who has shone a light on controversial topics including torture and strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers, is now behind bars in Ankara’s Sincan Prison to serve his sentence.

As part of violations of freedom of association, the report also mentioned that a top Turkish prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to close the HDP last month, arguing in the indictment that the pro-Kurdish party had become the focal point of actions that violate the state’s “indivisible unity” and that it had an “active role in providing personnel” to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

The indictment marks the culmination of a years-long crackdown on the HDP, which has long been portrayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the political front of the PKK, despite the party’s denial of such links. The HDP says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 18-year rule.

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