‘They will not discourage us,’ say women subjected to strip-searches in police custody

Two inmates from the left-wing Socialist Women’s Assembly (SKM) have said they were subjected to unlawful strip-searches while in custody at Istanbul Police headquarters and felt they were sexually violated, the Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reported.

Deniz Aktaş and Ebru Yiğit told their lawyers they were made to strip in front of male officers but added that they would not be intimated. “Women are constantly being subjected to sexual harassment in prison,” they said. “But we will resist such unlawful practices.”

According to Turkish legal and preventative search regulations, strip searches can only be conducted in exceptional cases, such as when there are credible indications that the person has contraband materials on him. In such cases the search must be conducted in a manner so as not to humiliate the person and as quickly as possible. When there is a credible suspicion that something is hidden in the person’s body, officers are required to ask the person to remove it himself and inform him that if he disobeys, the removal will be done by the prison doctor.

But the practice has been used frequently by Turkish security forces against people suspected or convicted of political crimes especially after a coup attempt in July 2016

Aktaş and Yiğit were among four people who were detained at their home in Istanbul’s Gazi District on the night of August 18. The detainees were members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and the SKM. The accusations against the women have not been disclosed.

The detainees were not allowed to see their lawyers for 24 hours, and their homes were searched with no bodycam footage recorded.

The European Court of Human Rights has found strip-searches to constitute degrading treatment when not justified by compelling security reasons and/or due to the way they were conducted. But the practice has been frequently used by Turkish security forces against people suspected or convicted of political crimes.

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