Daughters of jailed Turkish police chief voice concerns about father’s safety in video message

Two daughters of Yurt Atayün, a former police chief who was incarcerated in the summer of 2014 for taking part in a corruption investigation, have raised concerns about the safety of their father in prison and called on the relevant authorities to take action to maintain security in the country’s prisons, in video messages posted from the Twitter account of their father on Tuesday.

Atayün is one of the dozens of police officers who were arrested in the aftermath of two massive corruption investigations on Dec.17 and Dec. 25, 2013 in which government figures were implicated.

Then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labeled the investigations as a coup attempt against his government and covered them up by replacing the prosecutors and judges overseeing the investigations.

In July 2014, dozens of police officers including Atayün as well as some judges and prosecutors who took part in the corruption investigations were jailed.

Elif Atayün

In the video messages, Atayün’s daughters Esra and Elif Atayün talk about the ordeal of their father, who was the former head of the İstanbul counterterrorism unit, saying that he has been unfairly kept behind bars for four years and in a one-person prison cell for the past six months.

Esra Atayün delivers her message both in English and German, while Elif Atayün speaks in Turkish.

“In Turkey, the number of suspicious deaths in prisons are increasing by the day, and I am extremely worried about the safety of my father and my loved ones. My father and thousands of others, who are innocent, are being kept in prison cells in Turkey. So, my question is: How many more deaths will there be before somebody takes notice? I call on the United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe and all human rights organizations to pay special attention to the situation in Turkish prisons right now,” says Esra Atayün in her message.

Elif Atayün delivers a similar message in Turkish.

Esra Atayün

Atayün’s daughters have apparently been alarmed by the suspicious death of former police intelligence chief Zeki Güven, who was found dead on Sunday in his cell at Ankara’s Sincan Prison.

Güven had been dismissed from his latest position as assistant chief of police in Bolu province over alleged links to the Gülen movement in 2015, and a detention warrant was later issued accusing him of being an “executive member of a terrorist organization.”

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the corruption investigations in 2013 as well as a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The movement strongly denies any involvement in both incidents.

According to an official statement, Zeki Güven died due to a heart attack; however, given previous incidents and deaths in Turkish prisons, his death is considered suspicious.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in jails and detention centers, where torture and ill-treatment are being practiced. In the majority of cases, authorities concluded they were suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 117 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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