Turkish teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu, tortured to death under police custody, reinstated to his job (!)

Gökhan Açıkkollu

It has been revealed that Turkish teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu, who was tortured to death under police custody in the wake of a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over alleged membership in the Gülen movement, was found innocent one-and-a-half years later and was reinstated to his job (!).

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has finally admitted to the innocence of the deceased teacher.

The reinstatement decision, numbered E.2561776, for Açıkkolu was rendered by the Turkish Education Ministry on Feb. 7, 2018. The official document for the reinstatement of Açıkkolu was delivered by the principal of the school he used to work for to Açıkkollu’s teacher wife, who had also been dismissed from her job by a government decree under the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Thus, the honour of the late Gökhan Açıkkollu was restored by saying a simple “pardon” one-and-a half years after his death (!).

Açıkkollu was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and remained in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture. He was never officially interrogated, and the police did not even take a statement from him. Instead, he was taken from his detention cell every day to face torture and rushed to the hospital when his condition deteriorated, only to be shipped back to detention. He told doctors about the abuse and torture; yet, in some cases his statements were not even registered in the medical reports, and evidence of physical abuse was covered up under pressure from the police.

Açıkkollu was beaten, slapped in the face, kicked in the rib cage, kneed in the back and his head banged against the wall. His medical check-up before he was put in detention showed no signs of any heart troubles; yet, he was pronounced dead due to heart failure. When he collapsed in his cell, emergency services were belatedly called and he died in detention, although official records were doctored to reflect the false fact that he died at the hospital.

Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), emphasised in a report that Açıkkollu died of a heart attack due to the torture he was exposed to in detention.

His family had found out about his death when they were called to the İstanbul Institute of Forensic Medicine. The ill treatment of Açıkkollu continued here as well. They were told that the funeral could be held on condition that he was buried in “a graveyard of traitors,” prepared by the Greater İstanbul Municipality for alleged “traitors,” despite the fact that he had not been tried nor even interrogated. Imams assigned by the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) refused to say a funeral prayer for Açıkkollu.

His family had to embalm the body themselves and was obliged to take him to his hometown in Konya province in their own vehicle. Here too, the imam of the local mosque would not perform the funeral prayer because of instructions from the Religious Affairs Directorate that the “funeral prayer will not be said for traitors.” So the last rites was also performed by his close relatives.

In a report titled “Tortured to Death” SCF investigators on Nov. 21, 2017 exposed the case of 42-year-old history teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu, who died after enduring 13 days of torture and abuse in police detention in İstanbul.

The torture, ill-treatment, abusive, inhuman and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkey’s detention centers and prisons have become the norm rather than the exception under increased nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry in the country in the wake of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in Turkish jails and detention centers where torture and ill-treatment are being practiced. In most cases, authorities concluded these to have been suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond the prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 107 cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in a list as of February 27, 2018 in a searchable database format.

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 autocratic President 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”



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