Rear handcuffing of detainees accused of supporting families of political prisoners sparks outcry

Rear handcuffing of detainees who were accused of supporting families of prisoners jailed over alleged Gülen links sparked outcry among human rights defenders, Turkish Minute reported.

Turkish police officers have taken 66 people who were detained as part of an İzmir-based operation targeting members of the faith-based Gülen movement to a hospital for medical examinations with their hands cuffed behind their backs.

The detention of 66 people suspected of links to the Gülen movement, inspired by the teachings of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, was carried out in the early hours of Friday by officers from the counterterrorism and intelligence units of the İzmir Police Department, part of an investigation launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the movement.

Friday’s operation drew a rebuff from human rights advocates in Turkey and abroad after photos were released in the media showing the detainees’ hands cuffed behind their backs.

“More detentions today in İzmir. Those detained shall be accused of supporting families of political prisoners. Later it was reported that 10 women have already been arrested,” Rebecca Harms, a former member of the European Parliament and an expert on Turkey, announced in a tweet.

“What does it mean to handcuff detainees from behind? It means that they were declared guilty well in advance and thus may be subjected to all kinds of maltreatment. You have no right to torture people, even if they are guilty,” Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a rights advocate and deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said in a tweet, addressing the AKP government.

Former judge Kemal Karanfil, who was one of 130,000 civil servants purged from their jobs following the coup attempt, referred to the principle of legality in criminal law, meaning that only the law can define a crime and prescribe a penalty.

“Nobody can be punished for an act that is not considered a crime in the law. Our laws do not include a crime known as ‘supporting families of political prisoners.’ The real crime is what you are doing!” Karanfil said, referring to operations against the Gülen movement criticized by many for being politically motivated.

Another purged judge, Saim Nergiz, emphasized that handcuffing detainees from behind violates the presumption of innocence and the regulation on detention.

“The situations that require handcuffing from behind are obvious. They [the AKP government] will face trial [for this injustice],” Nergiz tweeted.

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