Police dogs attack couple during raid on their house in southeastern Turkey

Şeyhmus and Menice Yılmaz have accused Diyarbakır police officers of letting their dogs attack them during a raid on their home, part of an operation to find the suspected killer of police officer Atakan Aslan.

The Yılmaz couple filed a complaint after the incident, which took place on May 31, 2020. The Diyarbakır Police Department denied the allegations in a press statement, claiming that Şeyhmus Yılmaz “kicked the police dog and the dog attacked in response, but it was immediately taken under control by its trainer.”

Speaking to the Mezopotamya news agency, Menice Yılmaz said: “We are tenants of the grandmother of M.E.C., the suspect they were searching for. On May 31, 2020 at around 12:30 a.m. I saw police in the building. After hearing what sounded like gunshots, I wanted to go to the back room together with my children. After I took a couple of steps our front door was damaged [by the police]. I saw three dogs released inside the house, so I hid in the back room with the kids.

“The cops were in front of our door and shouted, ‘Open the door!’ I told them, ‘I have my children with me, I will open the door if you restrain the dogs.’ Right after I opened the door two dogs rushed inside the room. At that moment, my husband, who was sleeping in another room, woke up. One of the dogs attacked my stomach. I asked the cops to hold the dog back but they mockingly and rudely said, ‘It won’t bite you,’ and laughed. I knelt while the dog continued to paw at me. The officers finally held them back when they started going towards the kids.”

Şeyhmus Yılmaz said he was asleep when the police arrived. “Right after I left the bedroom, I heard the cops screaming, ‘Catch him, hit him, the guy is here!’ and found myself lying on the ground after receiving a blow. Fifteen to 20 members of the police special operations team attacked me. They kicked me in the nose, mouth and abdomen. … I was beaten for four or five minutes. After the cops stepped back, they instructed two dogs to attack me. One of them bit me on the right shoulder. The other bit the back of my left ear. I shouted: ‘It’s not me. My name is Şeyhmus, hold the dogs and let me get my ID!’ Because I was lying on the ground face down, the dogs bit my back and the back of my left leg. The attack lasted for two or three minutes. No one tried to stop the dogs. Afterward, the cops left the house together with the dogs.”

Menice Yilmaz said the attack happened in front of her children aged 7, 9, and 11. “My children were psychologically affected. When I put them to bed at night, they ask me if the cops and the dogs will come back again. They wake up at night shouting, ‘The dogs are here!'”

Following the incident, Seyhmus Yılmaz went to the Selahaddin Eyyubi State Hospital and got a medical report showing dog bites on various parts of his body. He later filed an official complaint alleging police brutality.

In a related development, Emre Soylu, an advisor to a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), tweeted photos of M.E.C., the suspect the police were pursuing that night. The tweet contained two photos of the suspect and read, “A traitor, in the compassionate arms of the police.” The first photograph showed the suspect in a police van, handcuffed from behind. In the second photograph, M.E.C. is seen handcuffed from behind lying on the ground and stripped naked with a foot on his back and a police baton next to him. Soylu also disclosed the full name of the suspect.

According to a press statement by the Diyarbakır Police Department, “The perpetrator, the murderer of police officer Atakan Arslan, was put in a police vehicle with his hands cuffed in the front. He attacked the police officers in the van with a razor he took out of his mouth.”

Sharing a press release on the incident through his Twitter account İsmail Çataklı, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said, “We reject the debate on a police murderer started strangely by those who have not offered condolences for our soldiers and police officers martyred this weekend.

“Turkey has implemented revolutionary administrative and judicial reforms aimed at protecting human rights and preventing torture in the last 15 years and shown zero tolerance for torture,” the spokesperson said, praising Turkey’s anti-torture policy.

“National and international judicial rulings, those of the European Court of Human Rights being first and foremost, have clearly reported that there has been no torture in our country. Most recently the 2017 and 2019 reports of the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture, contrary to what was asserted, reported that there has been no torture in Turkey,” he said.

According to a report by the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, on his mission to Turkey from November 27 to December 2, 2016, “torture and other forms of ill-treatment were widespread” in Turkey. “[T]here seemed to be a serious disconnect between declared government policy and its implementation in practice,” the special rapporteur noted with concern.

“According to numerous consistent allegations received by the Special Rapporteur, in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup, torture and other forms of ill-treatment were widespread, particularly at the time of arrest and during the subsequent detention in police or gendarmerie lock-ups as well as in improvised unofficial detention locations such as sports centres, stables and the corridors of courthouses. More specifically, the Special Rapporteur heard persistent reports of severe beatings, punches and kicking, blows with objects, falaqa, threats and verbal abuse, being forced to strip naked, rape with objects and other sexual violence or threats thereof, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and extended blindfolding and/or handcuffing for several days,” the report found.

On the other hand, a report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) based on its visit to Turkey’s detention centers in September 2016 has never seen the light of day because of Turkey’s veto.

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