Human Rights Watch: Allegations of Abduction and Torture Not Investigated in Turkey

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement today (April 29) and requested that the authorities in Turkey urgently carry out an effective investigation into the testimony of a person in pretrial detention who said that state agents forcibly disappeared and tortured him for nine months.

The testimony in question belongs to Gökhan Türkmen. Türkmen, 43, spoke for the first time during a February 10, 2020 court hearing about his abduction, enforced disappearance, and torture. He also said that officials had visited him in prison and threatened him and his family.

“Flagrantly flouting its legal obligations, Turkey has consistently failed to investigate credible evidence of enforced disappearances,” has said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at the HRW:

“The authorities should urgently investigate Türkmen’s allegations that he was abducted, tortured, and pressured to remain silent, and ensure that he and his family are protected against reprisals for speaking out.”

‘Prosecutor said there was no need to investigate’

The HRW has shared the following information about the issue:

“Türkmen disappeared in Antalya on February 7, 2019. His family repeatedly sought information from various authorities about his whereabouts and when met with silence, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

“Türkmen resurfaced in police custody on November 6. An Ankara court sent him to pretrial detention, and he remains in solitary confinement in Ankara’s Sincan F-type Prison No. 1. He is facing charges of espionage and links to the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Turkish government blames for the July 2016 coup attempt.

“Türkmen’s lawyer has also filed complaints that men who introduced themselves as National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) officers have visited him in prison six times since November 15 and threatened him and his family.

“During a March 2020 visit, the men pressured him to retract his allegations about abduction and torture at the February court hearing. On April 16, the Ankara prosecutor issued three decisions saying there was no need to investigate the complaints. Türkmen’s lawyer is appealing.

“His wife told Human Rights Watch that she had faced intimidation from unknown sources who hacked the Twitter account she had set up in her husband’s name to campaign about his whereabouts when he disappeared, and set up a second one also in his name.”

‘Allegations are not investigated’

The HRW has also indicated that “Türkmen, is one of at least two dozen people over the past three years whose families, or in a few cases the individuals themselves, have said they have been abducted and forcibly disappeared by government agents for many months.”

The organization has shared the following information about them:

“All but one are men. HRW has examined 16 such cases since 2017. Turkish authorities have yet to effectively investigate any of them, and a number of families have applied to the European Court of Human Rights for justice. The whereabouts and fate of one man remains unknown.

“Four other men who were forcibly disappeared in February 2019 and resurfaced in police custody in July have remained silent on the full circumstances, although their families lodged multiple complaints with the Turkish authorities and to the European Court of Human Rights.

“The four – Selim Zeybek, Özgür Kaya, Yasin Ugan, and Erkan Irmak – are in pretrial detention in Sincan prison facing prosecution for links with the Gülen movement and espionage.

“A fifth man, Mustafa Yılmaz, abducted in February 2019, resurfaced in police custody in October, and is also in pretrial detention in Sincan prison.

“Another man, Yusuf Bilge Tunç, disappeared in Ankara on August 6, 2019 and his whereabouts remain unknown despite his family’s repeated pleas to the Turkish authorities for information.

“One man, Mesut Geçer, said he was forcibly disappeared in March 2017, and was held for 16 months and repeatedly tortured before being transferred to police custody. Ayten Öztürk has said that in March 2018 she was forcibly disappeared and tortured for over five months before being officially registered in police custody.” (AS/SD)

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