Prisoners in Turkey being tortured to testify against strangers - columnist

Prisoners in Turkey are being tortured and threatened with the rape of family members to force them to testify that people they do not know were fellow members of terrorist organisations, according to an article in left-nationalist OdaTV by columnist Müyesser Yıldız.

There was drama during a trial in a small eastern Anatolian town recently, she said, when a self-admitted member of the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government says was behind the July 2016 failed coup, broke down during the hearing, saying that he did not know the man he had said was a fellow member.

Yıldız then related the following dialogue:

Judge: Why did you say you knew him at the investigation stage?

Witness: I showed the ones I knew on the computer. Then they (the police) said “There are those imprisoned because of the coup case, they are already putschists. They will get punished. If you give their names too we will get you out.” They showed photographs they had taken in the prison. I said “I know them”. They wrote the names themselves.

Judge: Do you not accept the statement you gave at the investigation stage?

Witness: Sir, I am a member of a (terror) group. They arrested me. They tortured me for days. They arrested my wife and showed me her in a side room. They gave my children to social services. After days of torture, they said “We will break our fast with your wife”. I asked them what they wanted. “We will show you a few pictures in addition to the ones you have said, and you will say that you know them. You will sign the official record. We will first release your wife, then we will release you after you have repeated these statements in the courtroom,” they said. I was forced to sign. I was about to lose my mind.

One week later, Yıldız said, the same witness was again claiming that the same suspect was a member of his group who regularly visited him.

The last week, he explained, “I felt sorry for him and his family.”

After identifying the suspect and giving a few lines of testimony, however, he was unable to furnish the answers to any further questions about who the suspect was, where he was from, or anything about his family, Yıldız said.

The judge ruled for the suspect to remain imprisoned and for the witness to be released, she wrote.