Ankara prosecutor launches investigation into campaign against unlawful strip-searches

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into recent social media posts and news reports exposing the extensive use of strip-searches in prisons, claiming that they showed signs of “deliberate” and “organized” action, Turkish Minute reported.

The public prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that it has launched an ex officio investigation over signs detected by the office that “support the suspicion that the content was being shared to legitimize FETO’s [a derogatory acronym used by Ankara to refer to the Gülen movement] designs on the Turkish Republic and its constitutional order.”

Ankara accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of instigating a failed coup in 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

The latest claims of strip-searches were brought to public attention by pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, which prompted scores of women as well as men to share on social media their experiences of strip-searches.

The claims were strongly denied by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin, who in a statement last week accused Gergerlioğlu of terrorizing the legislature by bringing such claims to the floor of parliament.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on Tuesday that his party is ready to support legislation to ban strip-searches.

Referring to an incident that took place in the western city of Uşak in September when 30 female university students were strip-searched while in police custody, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the practice and the authorities’ denial of its existence.

“You first claimed it was a lie. It turned out to be true,” the CHP chair said.

“Do you think you can achieve justice like that? I have a hard time understanding it. If they move to abolish strip-searches, we are ready to lend any support necessary,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Since the coup attempt, followers of the Gülen movement have been subjected to a massive crackdown, with the Turkish government and pro-government media outlets demonizing its members.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

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