Helmut Helmut Oberdiek * 18.9.1947 — † 27.4.2016
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AI Index: EUR 44/38/89

18 April 1989


In February 1988 Turkey ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture; in August it ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture. Torture nevertheless continues to be widespread and systematic. Despite repeated calls by Amnesty International the Turkish Government has failed to implement effective measures against torture.

Over the last seven months alone, since Turkey ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture, Amnesty International has received hundreds of torture allegations, including re ports that in some cases torture had resulted in the death of the prisoner. Most alleged torture and deaths in custody as a result of torture are reported to have taken place during the first days of interrogation.

One of the most recent cases concerns the death of Neriman Papis, born 1944. On 9 January 1989 she was taken into custody and interrogated by the second branch of Istanbul Police Headquarters on suspicion of pickpocketing. On 13 January she was rushed to Taksim Hospital, al ready in a coma. She died here the following day.

Officials from Istanbul Police Headquarters declared that she had fallen into a drug-related coma, but officials in the hospital and two independent witnesses stated that her body had been bruised and there had been traces of burning caused by electric shocks. Six fellow detainees alleged that she had been tortured in their presence.

On 1 February 1989 Amnesty International submitted the case to the Turkish authorities, but had not received a reply at the end of March. Amnesty International was informed by lawyers acting on behalf of Neriman Papis that they had still not been able to obtain an autopsy report two months after the death.

On 10 June 1988 Amnesty International submitted to the Turkish authorities a list of 229 names of people who were reported to have died in custody between September 1980 and April 1988, seeking clarification concerning the cause of death of these prisoners. On 28 September 1988 the Turkish authorities sent a reply on 55 of the 229 cases. They later updated the information in one case and provided information on a further case. In 13 cases the authorities admitted that torture had occurred by referring to legal actions against torturers who later were convicted.

On 8 December 1988 Amnesty International wrote again to the Turkish Government evaluating the information the organization had been given so far. To this letter a list of cases on which further clarification was sought and 10 new cases was attached. On 4 January 1989 Amnesty International made its information public in a report Turkey: Torture and Deaths in Detention (AI Index: EUR 44/101/88). This information was also published in the Amnesty International Newsletter January 1989.

Subsequently the list of 144 names of prisoners believed to have died in custody as a result of torture and about whom Amnesty International was seeking information from the Turkish authorities was published in the Turkish press. On the basis of this information independent sources in Turkey provided further details about a number of cases including cases Amnesty International had not been informed about thus far. This information confirmed torture in many cases. In one case the cause of death was given as suicide after severe torture and in four cases prisoners mentioned in the list were reported to be still alive.

One of them is Ergün Sen. His case had first been submitted to the Turkish authorities on 16 February 1982 and again on 10 June 1988. Since Amnesty International had not received a reply his name had been included in the list published on 4 January 1989. Subsequently Amnesty International received information that he was still alive and later also got a letter from the prisoner himself. He wrote from Sagmalcilar Prison:

"I was detained on 21 June 1980 by Bursa Political Police. I refused to sign a statement prepared against me. When despite various torture sessions and threats I did not confess to the charges, they threw me from the fifth floor of Bursa Police Headquarters. By mere chance I survived. Like me, other people were thrown from the fifth or sixth floor of Bursa Police Headquarters, but only I survived.

On the same day I was taken to hospital and completely put into plaster. After nine days I was transferred from Bursa to Istanbul Political Police. I stayed there for a week. On 9 July 1980 I was formally arrested. During the whole time I was not allowed to see my family. The police officers had told fellow detainees that I had died and they had used this as a means of threat. The plaster was very tight and I had difficulty breathing. This brought me close to death a second time.

In the meantime I was sentenced to death in 1984 by a military court as a Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left) defendant. This sentence was confirmed in 1986 by the Military Appeal Court. Although there is a legal obligation to submit the verdict to the defendant within one month (in order to allow us to appeal against it) until today I have not received the verdict. Maybe the Turkish State really believed that I had "disappeared".
On 1 February 1989 Amnesty International informed the Turkish authorities that Ergün Sen was still alive. This information was published in Turkey on 7 February 1989.

In mid-February 1989 Amnesty International received news reports that the Turkish Government had responded to the organization's concern about deaths in custody and the response was received by the organization on 7 March. The government stated that 112 of the 144 deaths listed by Amnesty International were not related to torture, but that in 32 cases torture had been involved. On 31 March the organization received an additional response on further 10 cases, acknowledging torture in one further case. The other cases were explained as 'suicide', 'natural death' or 'death in an armed clash' with the security forces.

The figure of 33 torture related deaths is more than twice that acknowledged by the government previously and also includes cases in which courts have been unable to identify the torturers. Nevertheless, a number of further cases have come to Amnesty International's attention. The authorities had previously admitted to seven further cases by stating that legal actions against torturers had been initiated resulting in conviction. In addition to these 40 cases Amnesty International is informed that torturers were convicted in another seven cases making a total of 47 cases in which torture has firmly been established to be the cause of death. Nine of these deaths occurred before 12 September 1980 (see attached list).

The reply of 2 March 1989 also mentioned 10 people as still being alive including three of the four people Amnesty International had already informed the authorities about. In the remaining seven cases Amnesty International has reasons to believe that these people were detained and died in custody, even though their corpses have never been found.

One of these cases concerns Mahmut Kaya. He had been included in the list of 10 June 1988, giving 25 December 1980 and Kars as the most likely date and place of death. On 2 March 1989 the Turkish authorities responded by saying that he was wanted for an incident in 1980 in Kars. Amnesty International's information indicates that Mahmut Kaya was detained on 23 December 1980 and taken to Kars Police Headquarters where he was interrogated about allegedly having put up a banner for the illegal organization Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path). Six fellow detainees later publicly stated that they were witnesses to Mahmut Kaya's death. One of them alleged that she had been forced to burn the clothes of Mahmut Kaya.

During Mahmut Kaya's detention his parents received an anonymous telephone call informing them that their son was held at Kars Police Headquarters. Despite all their efforts they were not able to see their son and were told that no such person was held there. According to an article published in the weekly journal 2000e Dogru (Towards 2000) on 17 April 1988 his father, Sebahattin Kaya, was still trying to establish the whereabouts of his son and had sent repeated appeals to the authorities. In March 1989 Amnesty International received information from an independent source in Turkey that Mahmut Kaya actually died on 3 January 1981 at Kars Police Headquarters. The organization continues to seek further clarification from the authorities on this case.

In another case the authorities gave contradictory information. The name of Halil Gündogan reported to have died on 2 August 1980 in Istanbul was first submitted to the authorities on 7 September 1981. Amnesty International received a reply on 25 March 1982 stating that Halil Dogan (GÜNAYDIN) had been found wounded and had died on the way to hospital. An investigation was said to be in progress. On 10 June and 8 December 1988 Amnesty International asked about the findings of the investigation stating that the name originally given might have been incorrect. The reply of 2 March 1989 stated that Halil Gündogan was alive and had escaped on 23 April 1988 from Metris Military Prison.

In most of the 121 cases in the Turkish Government's lists of 2 and 31 March 1989 said by the Turkish Government not to be related to torture Amnesty International considered that the replies were far from satisfactory. In some eases exact information on the cause of death was missing; in others causes given as "suicide" or "death in an armed clash" often contradict information received by Amnesty International from other sources. In some cases the authorities have even contradicted themselves.

In December 1982, January and May 1983 Amnesty International asked for information concerning allegations of torture and the subsequent death of Mustafa Asim Hayrullahoglu. No reply was received.

His family, however, received two letters from the authorities. In one, the Martial Law Prosecutor for Istanbul stated that Mustafa Asim Hayrullahoglu had been detained on 21 October 1982 and had committed suicide on 26 October. In the other, the Public Prosecutor for Istanbul stated that he had been detained on 5 November 1982, had become sick on 16 November and had died on his way to hospital. Court documents show that Mustafa Asim Hayrullahoglu had been detained on 14 November 1982 as an alleged member of the Turkish Communist Party and when he arrived at the hospital on 16 November 1982 he was dead.

Despite an initial ban on reporting court proceedings Amnesty International later found out that a trial of five policemen, charged with the death of Mustafa Asim Hayrullahoglu, had opened on 7 May 1984. On 1 April 1986 Istanbul Military Court No. 2, made up of three military judges, convicted three of the five defendants to 10 years and eight months' imprisonment. None of those convicted was imprisoned while the verdict was under appeal. Meanwhile Chief Inspector Ümit Bavbek, one of the convicted policemen, was promoted to the position of Chief of Kadiköy Police Station.

On 25 November 1986, the Military Appeal Court ruled that the defendants had to be retried because of "insufficient investigation". On 20 December 1986 military judges Nuh Cetinkaya and Naci Gürkan, who had voted in favour of a conviction in April, were officially suspended and appointed to different courts. The retrial started on 28 January 1987 at Istanbul Military Court No. 2, with Tahsin Ince, the remaining judge from the original trial who had voted for acquittal, and two other judges, who had not been involved in the case. On 4 May 1988 Istanbul Military Court acquitted all the policemen. This verdict, however, was quashed on appeal and the trial is due to start a third time at Istanbul Military Court.

In reply to Amnesty International's most recent inquiries in June 1988 the Turkish authorities on 28 September 1988 simply stated that three police officers were acquitted. The reply of 2 March 1989, however, offered a completely new version stating that "he had encountered an armed clash with the security forces, escaped and subsequently had died on 16 November 1982 in Istanbul".

Among the cases where Amnesty International's information contradicts the official response is that of Behzat Firik. It appears that an investigation into his death on 10 October 1981 in Tunceli only started after a weekly journal had reported it in March 1987. The official reply of 28 September 1988 stated that the investigation of Ovacik Prosecutor's Office was still going on. The reply of 2 March 1989 stated that Behzat Firik had been shot when he tried to escape. A trial (of the detaining gendarmes) had resulted in acquittal.

Behzat Firik's brother, Ali Ekber Firik, described the events leading to the death of Behzat Firik as follows:

"One day a group of some 20 gendarmes came to our village and rounded us up in front of our houses. They asked whether any 'educated' people were among us. My brother Behzat had finished grammar school. They told him to come with them and show them the way. I was suspicious and followed them. When they saw me I was taken to the commander.

Behzat's hands were tied behind his back, his head was completely red from beatings. Later we were taken to another place. Some 150 gendarmes were sitting around a fire. The commander ordered them to tie me to a tree and to undress Behzat. Then they told my brother that anarchists were in the area and he should tell them where they were. When he said he did not know they touched his mouth and tongue with a bayonet which had been heated in the fire.

Then five or six gendarmes took Behzat into the woods. They brought him back unconscious. They threw a parka over me and shouted 'the anarchists are fleeing, shoot'. When firing stopped they took the parka off my head. Behzat was lying on his back, naked. He was dead."

Another case is that of Ömer Aydogmus. He died in February 1981 at Izmir Police Headquarters. In the response to Amnesty International's inquiries of 10 June 1988 the authorities replied on 2 March 1989 that he had committed suicide by an overdose of pills. His death is described by fellow detainees in a completely different way.

Ömer Aydogmus was detained together with Fevzi Isik suspected of an attack on Kemeralti Police Station shortly after it occurred on 2 February 1981. Fevzi Isik later alleged that he had spent 70 days in incommunicado detention and that Ömer Aydogmus had died after 10 days under interrogation. He described in detail how both of them had been subjected to falaka (beating of the soles of the feet) and had been suspended by their wrists. He said that they were tortured during the day and had to stand in the corridor during evenings and nights. He continued:

"A new day here means another session of torture. First, they take Ömer then me. Around midday I am tied to the stone floor. A long period of waiting. Ömer comes very late. Again he stays on the stone floor just as they left him. Ömer is whimpering and oblivious to his surroundings. ... After this day Ömer's situation gets definitely worse. He has to be dragged away, after three to four hours he is dragged back. He lies there like jelly. I put my ear to his mouth and a sound like 'pih' can be heard. For a short time he is breathing noisily. Then foam comes out of his mouth. Then his breathing stops altogether. A pharmacist takes his pulse and states that Ömer is dead."

Afterwards the father of Ömer Aydogmus was told that his son was poisoned by taking too much medicine. The father did not believe this explanation and made a formal complaint to the Izmir Prosecutor's Office. During the investigation a medical report dated 18 February 1981 indicating six broken ribs was taken as evidence and seven police officers were put on trial. The police officers claimed in court that the detainee attacked them when they attempted to detain him and was injured when he and the police officers fell down the stairs. Again, this explanation is contradicted by the testimony of Fevzi Isik who said that neither of them resisted when the police raided their home.

In over 40 cases the Turkish Government listed deaths as being due to natural causes. Brief reference was made to the cause of death but in virtually none of the cases was sufficient clinical information provided to give any picture of the circumstances in which deaths occurred. A number of deaths, for example, were attributed to tuberculosis, diabetes or pneumonia without any further information on whether the prisoners were receiving treatment.

Reports indicate that prisoners in Turkey have in the past often had little or no access to medical treatment and there remains serious concern about the adequacy of provision of medical care. Amnesty International believes that some of these deaths may have been preventable had the prisoners had access to adequate medical care and had their illness been properly diagnosed and treated. However, cases which may be due to medical neglect, but for which Amnesty International has no further indication that the deaths were directly related to torture, have been excluded from the attached list. Other cases without contradictory information, for example, to be the result of a hunger-strike, have also been omitted.

Amnesty International has again submitted to the Turkish authorities all cases of reported deaths in custody in which the circumstances of death have not been fully clarified, seeking further clarification. The attached list contains names, dates and places relating to 172 cases (13 before 12 September 1980) in which the Turkish authorities either did not provide any information or where the official response contradicts information received by Amnesty International from other sources. The 47 cases (nine before 12 September 1980) where the deaths have been established to be the result of torture are listed at the end.

Amnesty International remains concerned that it has not received satisfactory explanations from the Turkish Government about over 170 deaths in custody which occurred in the last 10 years and that most of these deaths appear to be related to torture. The organization believes that most of these cases have not been thoroughly investigated and has urged the Turkish Government to initiate impartial investigations into all those cases where the cause of death remains unclear.
Continue to the list of deaths in custody.

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