Istanbul court sentences 6 police officers to prison over death of detainee 

A Turkish court on Monday sentenced six police officers to almost four years in prison for their involvement in the death of a detainee at an Istanbul police station, the Tr724 news website reported

The Bakırköy 13th High Criminal Court handed down four-year prison sentences to six police officers on conviction of “negligent homicide.” Six other officers were acquitted of homicide but convicted of “inflicting injury” and fined after their sentences were suspended.

Birol Yıldırım, 42, died in police custody in Istanbul’s Esenyurt neighborhood on June 5, 2021. CCTV recordings showed Yıldırım and two others speaking with policemen in front of the station. As Yıldırım turns around to leave, several policemen force him into the police station. 

Recordings also show a struggle between Yıldırım and the policemen and one police officer shouting at Yıldırım. Fifteen minutes later Yıldırım is forced into a dining hall. At 23:32, one police officer emerges rubbing a bloody hand and putting ice on it.

Yıldırım’s family filed a complaint against the police officers, alleging severe mistreatment. 

Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a human rights activist and deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), in 2021 had shared the video recordings urging authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident, which the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office promised it would do. 

There have been widespread claims of torture in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers that have so far gone uninvestigated.

An annual report on human rights violations in Turkey drafted by Tanrıkulu revealed 5,361 incidents of torture or maltreatment in 2022. According to the report, 80 minors were among the 5,381 people who were subjected to mistreatment in Turkey last year, including 1,280 incidents of torture or maltreatment taking place behind bars.

The US State Department, which issued its 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices with a subsection on Turkey last month, listed credible reports of suspicious deaths of persons in custody, among other rights violations in the country.

The report addressed the issue of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, citing domestic and international rights groups who “reported that some police officers, prison authorities, and military and intelligence units employed these practices.”

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