Ankara Bar Association backs torture claims of detained former diplomats

Turkish former diplomats accused of links to an outlawed group have been subjected to torture and sexual abuse while in police custody, the Ankara Bar Association announced on Tuesday.

The association said an investigation had revealed that former Foreign Ministry employees were beaten, threatened and violated after being detained in Ankara during an investigation into exam fraud.

"When the statements are evaluated as a whole, they confirm that the individuals were subjected to blows, torture which does not leave marks and ill-treatment,’’ a statement by the association said, citing the victims’ testimony.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party and a well-known human rights activist, on Sunday said former Foreign Ministry staff who are currently under detention at the Ankara Police Department’s financial crimes department had faced heavy torture.

The staffs is accused of cheating at exams to enter the civil service and are suspected of links to the clandestine Islamic movement of Fethullah Gülen. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government blames followers of Gülen for the failed coup attempt in July 2016 and designates the group a terror organisation.

On May 20, 78 suspects were detained in police operations after the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office issued arrest warrants for 249 foreign ministry staff over alleged exam cheating, an act the Turkish government links to the Gülen movement.

The six detainees interviewed by the association said they had been subject to threats and insults throughout multiple rounds of interviews, during which they were pressured to sign confessions.

Five of the six said they had been tortured outside the interviews, after being taken to a dark room marked “no entry” in the financial crimes department at Ankara police headquarters.

The detainees told the Ankara Bar Association that individuals had entered the room where they remained handcuffed, bound their eyes, forced them to their knees and struck their heads with batons.

Four said they had been stripped and forced into the foetal position by their interrogators, who threatened to penetrate them anally with police batons if they did not talk.

They were then told they would be moving into the “second phase”, at which point the detainees reported oil or a lubricant was inserted into their anal cavities.

One detainee was told prior to being assaulted that he "would not be able to sleep with his wife,’’ and "he’d wake up at night crying’’ after they were finished with him.

"We insert batons here, you may have heard this, all you have heard is true,’’ one detainee was quoted as being told by officials, before being subjected to torture.

The report also includes one detainee's dialogue with a judge, to whom the detainee complained of the torture and sexual assault threats.

"I’m not a doctor, that’s not my job. Go tell a doctor,’’ the judge is quoted as responding.

The bar association says that while one detainee interviewed did not report being tortured himself, his statement indicated that he had heard details of the torture suffered by the other detainees while held in a cell with them.

The association has demanded an investigation of video records from the police officers where the detainees were held.

Organizations including Human Rights Watch have reported on torture and abuse in Turkish jails and prisons, particularly following the July 2016 coup attempt.

A 2017 HRW report included details of police beating and threatening detainees with sexual assault and rape in order to obtain confessions of membership to terrorist organisations.

Following the 2016 coup attempt, more than 510,000 people have passed through police custody and some 100,000 have been remanded in pre-trial detention.

© Ahval English