25-year-old man dies under suspicious circumstances at police station in Manisa province

A 25-year-old man died last night under suspicious circumstances at a police station in the western Turkish province of Manisa, the Duvar news website reported.

Orhan Azman was found hanging in his cell from his undershirt Wednesday morning. His family was notified that their son died by suicide; however, the family doesn’t believe their son killed himself.

Azman’s father accused police officers of negligence, saying he found it hard to believe his son could have taken his own life while under police surveillance. He added that he would file a complaint against the officers and guards who were in the station at the time.

Azman’s cousin, Süleyman Çevik, said he was a cheerful young man and had no reason to kill himself. “My cousin weighed 90 kilos. How could his undershirt support his body?” he asked. “Orhan [Azman] did not even usually wear one. We will pursue justice for my cousin and find out what really happened.”

Azman was detained Tuesday evening by neighborhood watchmen when he was out walking with friends. After a routine health check at a public hospital, Azman was taken to a police station where he was placed in a cell.

Neighborhood watchmen have been previously criticized for their abuse of power. Last year, three journalists were attacked by nightwatchmen while reporting on a toddler who went missing in Istanbul and later died in the hospital.

Once disbanded, the nighttime neighborhood watchmen were revived by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and began patrolling city streets in 2017, a year after an attempted coup. The opposition strongly criticized the government for giving them the authority to demand that people present identification cards as well as the ability to use force, carry weapons and apprehend suspects.

In response to questions posed by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Süleyman Bülbül, the Interior Ministry refused in 2020 to disclose any information about the number of nightwatchmen who have been investigated or disciplined for battery, mistreatment or abuse of power in the last four years.

Human rights advocates and opposition politicians have tried to raise public awareness of mistreatment. According to recent data from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Turkish police employed unlawful tactics including mistreatment and beating while detaining 13,935 people between 2018 and 2021.

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