Air force cadet serving life sentence severely beaten by guards in Silivri Prison

Muhammed Ali Taş, a former air force cadet who was sentenced to life in prison after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, is alleged to have been severely beaten by five prison guards in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison, notorious for its large number of political prisoners and allegations of torture, Turkish media reported.

Taş’s mother Meral Taş spoke to the Kronos news website and said her son gave him all the details in a telephone call. Meral Taş said a verbal dispute broke out in Taş’s prison ward, after which he was taken to a separate room by the guards where he was beaten until he lost unconsciousness.

“Two guards held his arms from behind while the guard in charge started beating him,” she said. “When he tried to get away they pushed him to the floor and continued beating him.” The head guard is identified as Ramazan Kuyucu, whose photo with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has been circulating on Turkish Twitter following the revelation.

According to Meral Taş, the room had no cameras. She said the guards later took her son’s clothes, dragged him down the corridor by his arms and left him naked in a cold, solitary cell.

The guards came back three hours later and took him to the prison doctor. Although there were bruises on Taş’s face, knees and wrists, the doctor did not issue him a report. “He told me they stomped on his knees with their boots, and his face was swollen and bruised,” Meral Taş said. “The prison administration refused to speak with us and rejected our petitions requesting an appointment.”

Meral Taş added that a similar incident had occurred in the near past when one of Taş’s friends was also beaten by the guards in a room with no cameras.

Taş is one of the air force cadets who were arrested and sentenced to life in prison after the coup attempt in July 2016. Cadets were in the western city Yalova for a training camp during the coup. They were taken to İstanbul’s Bosporus Bridge by bus where some of them were lynched by a pro-government mob, claiming the life of two of the cadets, Murat Tekin and Ragıp Enes Katran.

The cadets said they were unaware that a coup was underway as the putschist bid unfolded. According to CCTV footage, they were not involved in any acts of violence despite the fact that their bus was attacked by the mob.

The controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 was, according to many, a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.

The abortive putsch killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing the coup had been suppressed, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of state institutions, summarily dismissing judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 130,000 public servants as well as 20,571 members of the armed forces from their jobs with emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

According to the cadets the only surprising thing on the day of the abortive putsch was an unplanned morning visit by Air Forces Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal to their training camp in Yalova. During a speech to the cadets, Ünal reportedly underlined the importance of carrying out the orders of their commanders.

Columnist Ahmet Nesin wrote on the Artıgerçek news website that during his unplanned visit, Ünal told the commander of the camp to cancel all training activities in the afternoon. “He told the commander, ‘Don’t tire the boys out; they’ll get tired this evening’,” Nesin reported.

A total of 355 military cadets were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the government.”

There have been widespread claims of torture in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers that have so far gone uninvestigated.

Turkey is party to several international conventions that have different review and inspection mechanisms such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). According to information published on the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the country is currently party to 16 UN human rights conventions and 121 of the CoE’s 225 conventions and has signed 31 other conventions.

Yet, in the recent past the Turkish government has continuously disregarded the provisions of the constitution and failed to uphold its international obligations. For instance, Turkey has for four years blocked the publication of a report by a Council of Europe delegation that paid a fact-finding visit to Turkey in 2016 to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment in Turkish correctional facilities.

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