Exiled journalist reveals systematic mass torture, abuse targeting Turkey’s military staff

Former Air Force Commander Gen. Akın Öztürk was among those military officers who were severely tortured.

According to an article written by Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven titled “Game in a Sports Hall in Ankara“ published in Kronos online news outlet on Monday, a number of Turkish military officers including former Air Forces Commander Akın Öztürk were exposed to torture, severe treatment and corporal punishment by security officers along with privates after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016

Journalist Güven, who used to be the editor-in-chief of closed Nokta newsweekly in Turkey and now live in exile, has written that many Turkish military staff and especially Akın Öztürk groaned under torment as privates and police officers in a sports hall, that was converted into a detention center, punished them severely based on the information given by witnesses.

Stressing over the insensitivity over the torture especially targeting Gen. Öztürk and other military officers, Güven stated that “Privates attacked Akın Öztürk most of the time and they beat him,” by noting that those security officers ordered them to punish the military officers in upper ranks repeatedly.

Basing on the statements of a witness, Güven also pointed out that the security officers humiliated the military officers by using slang words. He wrote that a police commissioner in Ankara Police Headquarters slammed those detainees: “Now we will play a game with you. When I say ‘Who is the lieutenant?’, the lieutenants will stand up and say ‘I am a son of bitch.’ ‘When I say ‘Who is the non-commissioned officer?’, the non-commissioned officers get up and say, ‘I am a son of a bitch’ … I ask now, ‘Who is the lieutenant?’ …” ordered the police commissioner.

Güven said that this “game” took place in the sports hall where the first detainees were gathered after the failed coup attempt.

According to the descriptions of the civilian eyewitnesses who were in custody at the time, no one involved in the “game” of the torturer police commissioner. Those non-commissioned officers and lieutenants were beat by kicking at their faces thereupon.

Not only that they also took their clothes off and remained them only in underwear and beat without ceasing. “Akın Öztürk was naked. The police beat him continually,” Güven wrote basing on witness statements. In fact, he also pointed that from time to time when police officers get tired, they called privates to get Öztürk beaten up. Güven underlined that these privates were strange types with arms cut.

The torture, ill-treatment, abusive, inhuman and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkey’s detention centers and prisons have become a norm rather than an exception under increased nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry in the country in wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has reported 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 Turkish jails and detention centers where a torture and ill-treatment is being practiced. In most cases, authorities concluded these as suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

The suspicious death has also taken place beyond the prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before the detention. SCF has compiled 93 cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in a list as of November 2, 2017 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 ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the  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’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges under the rule of emergency. Turkish government has also suspended or dismissed more than 150,000  judges, teachers, police and civil servants thanks to the rule of emergency.

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