Police officers accused of mistreatment resulting in suicide are convicted instead of ‘document forgery’

Can family

A Turkish court has handed down prison sentences to four police officers who were allegedly involved in the mistreatment of a young man while in detention, ultimately leading him to take his own life, on a mystifying conviction of “document forgery,” Turkish media reported.

Four police officers who allegedly strip-searched Onur Yaser Can in 2010 were each sentenced to six years in prison. The final hearing of the trial was held Monday morning at the Istanbul 41st High Criminal Court.

Can, who had just graduated from Middle Eastern Technical University’s department of architecture, was detained by the narcotics police on June 2, 2010 in Istanbul’s Şişli neighborhood. He was questioned and released at the request of the prosecutor. However, police again detained Can two days later, saying there were some things missing in his statement. After being freed again, police detained Can a third time on June 23. 

The young man took his own life the same day, after being released from detention for the third time. His mother found a note in Can’s pocket saying he was strip-searched and mistreated. 

His family alleges that Can was severely mistreated while in detention. He was allegedly forced to sign a statement that was taken under duress and was not given a copy of the statement. 

The four police officers were inexplicably charged with “forgery of official documents,” although Can’s family and lawyer had requested that they be charged with mistreatment. His mother also died by suicide in 2014, unable to live with the pain of her son’s death, and his father died due to poor health in 2019. 

Can’s remaining family said the prison sentences were inadequate since this was not merely a case of fraud but of police mistreatment, which eventually led to his death. 

Ill-treatment and torture have become widespread and systematic in Turkish detention centers and prisons. 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 recent report by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) a record number of people complained about police mistreatment in 2021, with 914 people appealing to the foundation.

An annual report by Amnesty International on the state of human rights in the world revealed that serious and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were made in Turkey in 2021.

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