CHP report reveals that humanitarian conditions deteriorating in Turkish prisons

The humanitarian conditions in prisons are deteriorating day by day, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) sub-commission investigating prison conditions has stated after conducting interviews with imprisoned journalist in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison, reported by Hurriyet Daily News.

“We have observed that the pressure on inmates by prison management has been increased so much that it is unprecedented in Turkish history. We note that in prison, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated greatly, that isolation is dominant and that the right to visits is limited as much as possible,” a report prepared by CHP lawmakers read on May 4.

The committee, composed of CHP lawmakers Veli Ağbaba, Nurettin Demir, Şenal Sarıhan and Necati Yılmaz, visited Silivri Prison in İstanbul, conducting interviews with Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Muhammet Ali Gül, Fatih Gürsul, Deniz Yücel, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Ali Bulaç, most of whom are journalists.

The report prepared after the interviews stated that the conditions worsened after the state of emergency rule following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

German daily Die Welt’s reporter Deniz Yücel said that his imprisonment was political. “I have been taken as a hostage over the referendum,” Yücel told the committee. “They are doing negotiations in my name,” he said.

Ali Bulaç, a former columnist for the now-shuttered daily Zaman and Today’s Zaman, said there were restrictions on books, while visits were also not confidential. “There are problems because of the state of emergency. Visits are under surveillance. Whenever we object, they say there is a state of emergency,” he said.

Atilla Taş, who emerged as a singer before becoming a columnist for daily Meydan, which was also shut down after the coup attempt, said he had “lost his belief in justice.”

“Our morale has been destroyed. They built a cage over the courtyard. We had a handful of a sky, now they took it away from us. It would be better if they pour concrete over us. I want to say ‘the law will triumph,’ but there is no law here. Letters are forbidden. What bad could there be in letters?” he said.

Atilla Taş shot to prominence on social media thanks to his active role during the 2013 anti-government Gezi Park protests, but is now being charged with being a member of the Gülen movement.

Famous novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan told the committee that his imprisonment aimed “to create an environment of fear.” “There is not even one sentence that is true. It’s so wrong that what is written in one paragraph is refuted in the next paragraph. There is no single piece of evidence against me,” he said.

Ahmet Altan was imprisoned after the coup attempt on the grounds that he “gave subliminal messages suggesting a military coup,” according to an official document sent to the police by the prosecutor’s office. “It is not just to silence us; it is to create an environment of fear,” he said.

Ahmet Altan’s academic and journalist brother Professor Mehmet Altan said “he had never seen such an era.”
“I have struggled against tutelage my entire life. I see that there was law then. Before, there was law, even if it just formally existed. Now, even that is not the case. Prosecutors create crimes by reading intentions and people’s subconscious rather than finding concrete evidence,” he said.

Muhammet Ali Gül, a student who was detained on the grounds that he managed a fake Twitter account that defamed Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and religion, argued that he was imprisoned because of a video he produced against the constitutional charter during the referendum process.  “A fake profile called Felix Dzerjinski posted tweets which include swears. That profile does not belong to me. I am imprisoned because I shot a ‘no’ video [for the constitutional referendum],” he said.

Turkey stands out from the crowd by a distant margin by holding a record number of 235 journalists and media workers behind bars, breaking an all time world record. More than half of the journalists who are in prison around the world are now located in Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and a candidate member for the European Union (EU).

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 235 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 214 are arrested pending trial, only 21 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.  An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt.

Turkey has already detained more than 120,000 people over alleged ties to the Gülen movement in wake of failed coup attempt on July 15, 2017. The coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

In August last year, Turkish government decided to release 38,000 convicts from the prisons in order to make space for its witch hunt after the coup attempt. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said in late December 2016 that Turkey will build 175 new prisons in 2017.

May 5, 2017

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