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Turkey’s Justice Ministry to ask prison administrations about widespread torture claims

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A special team assembled upon the orders of Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ will be asking prison administrations in the country about the widespread claims of torture and mistreatment, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

The team, which consists of officials from the Directorate General of Prisons and Houses of Detention (CTE) and the Press and Public Relations Office, was reportedly formed to investigate claims of torture and mistreatment in Turkish prisons and detention centers with the aim of verifying them.

The members are instructed to scan social media posts and media reports for such claims and then send them to the relevant prison administrations, asking them to submit written statements regarding the content of the claims.

The statements will be shared with the public, according to Anadolu.

Bozdağ previously said the team was formed to follow allegations of torture and mistreatment in Turkish prisons and detention centers, claiming that such allegations were aimed at defaming prison administrations and wardens.

“We analyze them right away [and decide], whether they are fabricated or valid, [and then] we transparently publish them on the CTE website to make them public. In the analyses carried out so far, it has been revealed that the allegations are baseless. Almost 100 percent of them turned out to be unfounded,” the minister had said.

Many found the minister’s remarks to be far from convincing since what was shared with the public as the “truth” contained only analyses by the government of the torture and mistreatment allegations in Turkey’s prisons and the statements from the prison administrations blamed for them, without even an independent body monitoring the process, local media reports said.

After an abortive putsch in 2016, ill-treatment and torture became widespread and systematic in Turkish detention centers. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

An annual report by Amnesty International (AI) on the state of human rights in the world has revealed that serious and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were made in Turkey last year.

According to a report drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, there were 3,145 incidents of torture or maltreatment in 2021, with 925 of them taking place in prisons.

Garibe Gezer, an inmate who alleged that she was beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards in Kocaeli’s Kandıra Prison, was found dead in her cell in December. In a letter sent to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), her brother Haşim, an inmate in Elazığ Prison, said Garibe told him in a phone call how she was abused physically and sexually by prison guards.

Most recently, people who were detained due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, were allegedly subjected to torture at a police detention center in Ankara.

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