Torture, mistreatment not allowed in Turkish prisons, justice minister claims

Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Saturday that the Turkish government does not allow torture and mistreatment in prisons, claiming it has one of the best penal systems in the world.

Speaking to prisons guards at an event, Bozdağ said the government “has not closed its eyes to torture and mistreatment in its prisons” and will continue that policy.

In response to Bozdağ, human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu stated that the Justice Ministry has not replied to his 175 parliamentary questions on cases in Turkish prisons since the appointment of Justice Minister Bozdağ, accusing the minister of lying.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Bozdağ as Turkey’s new justice minister, replacing Abdülhamit Gül after his resignation in January. Bozdağ had previously served as justice minister between 2013 and 2015 as well as from 2015 to 2017.

After an abortive putsch in 2016, ill-treatment and torture became widespread and systematic in Turkish detention centers. 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.

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

According to a report drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, there were 2,694 deaths and 3,145 incidents of torture or maltreatment in 2021, with 925 of them taking place in prisons.

Garibe Gezer, an inmate who alleged that she was beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards in Kocaeli’s Kandıra Prison, was found dead in her cell in December. In a letter sent to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), her brother Haşim, an inmate in Elazığ Prison, said Garibe told him in a phone call how she was abused physically and sexually by prison guards.

Most recently, people who were detained due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, were subjected to torture at a police detention center in Ankara.

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