Report: Turkish man in police custody for 7 days loses mental health

File photo.

A report by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) shows that a Turkish man who was kept under police custody for 7 days in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 lost his mental health because of torture, ill-treatment and trauma.

A Turkish public official who said that he was exposed to torture and ill-treatment under police custody for 7 days, applied to the TİHV by stating that he has lost his health.

The public officer, who was identified as A.G. and wanted to keep his name anonymous, told the forensic medical specialist who examined him that his health problems had recurred after the maltreatment under police custody. In the report, it was determined that the victim was treated inhumanely and his mental health was deteriorated.

Hundreds of people detained after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 have documented the ill-treatment and torture they were exposed to under police custody. While some of the victims managed to get the tortures written in official minutes by expressing how they were tortured during their stance before the courts, some of them are doing preparations by getting medical reports on torture and ill-treatments in order to call the perpetrators to account. While describing their experiences some of the victims try to keep their names anonymous, the ones who were heavily tortured try to get rid of the trauma and be afraid of exposing the torture for now.

According to A.G., who sent his medical report to the SCF,  one month after the coup attempt, the police officers came to the public building where he worked in and took him into custody on the grounds that there was an investigation about him. A.G. says he witnessed a torture of a civilian citizen who had been held there 20 days as he was brought to a cell in the basement of a courthouse in İstanbul. He saw that the detention period of this person was extended 5 days each time and then he was asked whether he wanted to take advantage of effective remorse by the prosecutor.

Torture and ill treatment for days

A.G., who was examined by Prof. Dr. Ümit Biçer, a forensic medicine specialist and an executive of the TIHV, told what he lived under police custody as follow:

“During the night hours, the police officers took this detainee and threatened him by swearing and showing him their guns. It was so bad even to see such people. I was not allowed to meet my family and my lawyer. In an airless environment, police officers were always smoking. I have stomach discomfort. I started vomiting on third or fourth day in custody. We got laid on a hard floor. Light was on for 24 hours. We were 7 people. While they were talking to each other they said, ‘If we treat them well, we will get trouble. Do not give food or water for these traitors.’ They took us to the health check every day. Some days the examination room’s door was open. Sometimes the police officers talked to doctor before us. The doctor told me, ‘Hang in there a little more. They did not give food and water to the detained judges and prosecutors before you.”

A.G., whose interrogation under police custody was done without the presence of his lawyer, was shocked when he was said that he had guns and bullets in his house. While trying to say that he didn’t have a gun, police officer threatened him by saying, “You talk in purple prose. There is state of emergency. If I wish I can keep you here for 30 days. Then I can arrest you.”

Stating that there was a lawyer during his last interrogation under police custody just before he was taken to the prosecutor’s office, A.G. said that “The lawyer did not know why he was there. When he realised the reason he started to sweat from fear. They didn’t ask about the bullets in this interrogation with the presence of lawyer. I was asked if I knew Fethullah Gülen, why did I go to FEM prep school, and If I deposited money into an Bank Asya account or not. Then I was referred to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor took my testimony and directly sent me to a court. The judge, who is supposed to be impartial, was scolding and shouting at us. I was released. I stayed under police custody for 7 days.”

He started to pull off his hair and scratch himself with his nails

According to the report, when A.G. was released by the court, he saw his name was written under someone else’s testimony. Therefore, he applied to the judge to correct this mistake. The response of the judge had been shouting at him and repelled him by saying “Get out of here, you are a member of ‘FETÖ’,” in the corridors of the courthouse. And that had became the last straw for A.G.

FETÖ is a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government and autocratic Turkish President Erdoğan have been using to defame the civic Gülen movement.

A.G. told that he could not forget that moment and he was influenced the most by this incident besides other things. He became introverted and he returned to his hometown. He could not go outside and he couldn’t work. From that date on, he started to have headaches, nightmares, insomnia and unintentionally pull of his hair, and on the back of his head began to be bald. Moreover, he had started to scratch his arms with his nails and biting his lips out of will. He could not read books because he had to read the same page many times due to the focusing problem.

Thus, the forensic medicine expert Biçer has prepared a report about psychological conditions of A.G., who stated that he no longer wants to live in Turkey because he could not stand being called as a “terrorist”, after examining him thoroughly.

The reason of trauma is “inhuman treatment in custody’

Due to the physical and mental trauma that A.G. experienced under custody, Biçer has diagnosed “post-traumatic stress disorder” and wrote it in the report. The report has also  pointed out that the traumatic effects of the physical and psychological violence on A.G., the problems in regard of the mental health of detainees may be long-term. The report also underlined that there may be additional symptoms/effects and the available problems could be much more serious in the future. The report suggested that A.G. should be followed up and his health conditions should be reevaluated periodically especially from a psychological point of view.

In the conclusion of the TIHV report, it was stated that A.G. was subjected to ‘trauma caused by human intervention’ and that according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) international criteria, the situation should be evaluated within the context of ‘torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.’

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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