Turkish parliament fines opposition deputy for speech on strip-searches in prisons

HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu during his speech on cases of strip searches in Turkish prisons

Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was fined by the Turkish parliament for a speech on strip-search cases in the country’s prisons, Bold Medya reported.

Gergerlioğlu was fined 19,000 Turkish lira (about $1,000) by the parliament on Thursday for insulting the Justice Ministry and the government by calling them “immoral.”

Gergerlioğlu said he would not accept the fine and would take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

Gergerlioğlu on Tuesday read letters in parliament from female inmates and visitors who had recently been subjected to strip-searches in prisons. Children have also been forced to endure such embarrassing procedures, Gergerlioğlu said.

 

In his speech Gergerlioğlu touched on the case of Nagehan Yüksel, a female inmate who had been disciplined by the prison administration for revealing in a letter to him that she had been subjected to a strip-search in prison. The prison administration confiscated the letter and referred Yüksel to the prison’s disciplinary committee because she had written about the strip-search.

Yüksel was subjected to a strip-search on August 4 in Eskişehir Prison.

“I wonder if this woman is ‘immoral’ for exposing the strip-search, the Ministry of Justice or the Justice and Development Party [AKP] government?” the opposition lawmaker said.

Gergerlioğlu pointed to Özlem Zengin, a deputy from the ruling AKP who earlier described women revealing their experiences of unlawful prison strip-searches as “disreputable” and “immoral.”

The practice of conducting strip-searches in Turkish prisons was vehemently denied by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Zengin, when it was first brought to the nation’s attention by Gergerlioğlu in late 2020, prompting scores of women as well as men to share on social media their experiences of strip-searches.

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 them. 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 themselves and inform them that if they disobey, the removal will be done by the prison doctor.

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 frequently been used by Turkish security officers against people suspected or convicted of political crimes, especially since a coup attempt in July 2016.

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