Families: Women detained over alleged Gülen links subjected to maltreatment under Turkish police custody

The families of women detained in operations ordered by provincial Chief of Police Cengiz Zeybek and Governor Ersin Yazıcı between March 26-29 in a Balıkesir-based probe targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement have claimed that the women have been subjected to degrading treatment and physical and psychological torture under police custody.

The number of detainees in the operation, primarily women, now stands at 151.

According to tips given to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), witnesses and families of the detainees claim that the women, dozens of them university students, have been subjected to degrading treatment and maltreatment as well as physical and psychological torture.

It was reported that police teams raided the houses of female students after 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday over alleged links to the Gülen movement and that they were forced to lie on the floor for hours handcuffed from behind while police searched their homes. Police officers also allegedly stepped on the heads and the backs of some of the women.

The families of the detained women said they could not get any information from authorities, especially about those women who were allegedly tortured and maltreated in police custody. The families have not been allowed to meet with the detainees.

A woman named Zeynep Öztan, who has three children including a 7-month-old baby, was reportedly sent to Kepsut Prison without testifying to a prosecutor.

The families and relatives of the detainees are concerned that the women have been subjected to torture and ill treatment under police custody.

The children of Fatih-Emine Sönmez couple and their guest Ülkü Nur Sönmez.

Meanwhile, on Friday, police detained Fatih and Emine Sönmez, the parents of two children, including a 19-month-old, in Bursa province over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Fatih Sönmez’s aunt, Ülkü Nur Sönmez, a mother of three including an infant, was also detained during the police raid as she was a guest at the house.

The Turkish government had detained more than 70 women on Wednesday evening in five Turkish provinces as part of a Balıkesir-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by the Kronos online news outlet, 600 police officers took part in operations led by Balıkesir Police Chief Cengiz Zeybek and conducted raids on 63 locations in İzmir, Manisa, Uşak, Denizli and Balıkesir provinces. Police detained more than 70 women over alleged links to the Gülen movement during the raids.

The detained women are accused of providing financial assistance to the families of people who have been jailed or fled the persecution of the Turkish government over their suspected links to the movement. The women are also accused of having frequently visited families of the victims of the Turkish government led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has conducted a massive post-coup witch hunt against alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Turkish government has detained more than 17,000 women since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Women who have been jailed in the unprecedented crackdown have been subjected to torture and ill treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents, a report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear released in April 2017 by SCF revealed.

In several cases, women were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of a baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos.

Turkey survived coup attempt 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 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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