Kurbani Özcan, a Kurdish inmate serving time in southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakır Prison, was badly beaten by guards, leaving him with broken fingers, the Duvar news website reported.
According to his mother Özcan talked about what he went through over the phone but the call was disconnected all of a sudden when he was giving the details. She sought legal help from the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD), the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Diyarbakır Bar Association. Yet, the prison administration did not allow the lawyers from the organizations to visit Özcan, claiming they weren’t allowed visits during official holidays, in this case Eid al-Fitr. The lawyers said this was against the law and that they would file complaints.
Özcan was first sent to Trabzon Prison in northeastern Turkey. He asked to be transferred, saying he was mistreated, and was sent to a prison in neighboring Giresun in March. However, Özcan said he continued to be mistreated.
According to his mother Özcan resisted a strip-search and started a hunger strike in protest. She added that her son eventually became suicidal due to the pressure and this time was transferred to Diyarbakır Prison.
Security footage in prisons are deleted every 60 days, making it difficult to prove mistreatment. In cases where inmates do not receive medical attention for their injuries, it becomes even harder to prove.
The Association of Civil Society in the Correctional System (CISST) called for the Justice Ministry to investigate Özcan’s claims.
Turkey has experienced a marked resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in custody over the past five years, and especially since a coup attempt in July 2016. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.
According to a report by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who is also a prominent human rights activist and deputy chair of the Human Rights Committee in parliament, a total of 27,493 people were victims of torture and maltreatment between 2002, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, and 2020 and 86 others died from such mistreatment.
While 988 cases of torture or maltreatment were reported in 2002, this figure rose to 3,534 in 2020, the report stated.