Families of jailed children camping outside Diyarbakir prison, June 2010. Photo: ANF
ANKARA, Turkey – Prisoners in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces of Van and Mus suffer torture and abuse and their trials are moved to distant cities where they can get no legal support, according to the Diyarbakir Bar Association.
The association’s Prison Commission says that nothing has changed for Kurdish political prisoners in Turkish jails, despite a peace process underway between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to formally end three decades of conflict in which 40,000 people have been killed.
“On 28 October 2013, the prisoners’ personal possessions (like books, diaries and photographs) were seized by force by the prison administration and prosecutor in Mus Prison,” the commission said in a report.
In the meantime, the prisoners were exposed to physical violence, insults, threats and sexual abuse. “As some female prisoners were beaten heavily, they had vaginal bleeding and head traumas,” the report added.
It said that some female prisoners were dragged on the floor by the prison manager and an inmate was pushed down a set of stairs. Seven prisoners were locked in a ventilation unit for hours and other inmates were beaten and abused, but the prison prosecutor who was present at the site did nothing to stop the violence, the report charged.
It added that a prison fire last month was over the seizure of prisoners’ possessions. The blaze was started by prisoners in protest, it said, adding that the prison administration deliberately delayed putting out the fire, and then prevented medical staff from issuing health reports to injured prisoners.
The commission reported another incident of torture and abuse at the Van Prison, where some escaped political prisoners who had escaped from another jail were taken to face physical and psychological abuse. They were also denied a defense in court, it said.
Oyku Cakmak, a lawyer with the Diyarbakir Bar Association, told Rudaw that there had been no change in prisoners’ conditions in Turkey’s Kurdish regions despite the peace process.
“Almost all of the Kurdish political prisoners have been exiled to F-type prisons in western cities in Turkey. That is why Kurds in Turkey, especially the family members of the prisoners, have deep concerns over the process,” he said.
“There has not been a release of prisoners within the context of the process yet. Moreover, dozens of prisoners are still kept in prison even though their prison terms have ended. That means that the Turkish state does not even apply its own law,” Cakmak charged.
Officials at both prisons told Rudaw they were only following the instructions of the justice ministry by transferring prisoners to other jails to reduce overcrowding.
If the peace process is to continue, the government has to release the political prisoners, Zubeyde Teker, head of the Federation for Solidarity with Relatives of Prisoners, told Rudaw.
“Releasing the political prisoners is one of the conditions set by the Kurdish political movement to achieve peace. But the government has not released any political prisoners except for seven sick inmates,” Teker said.
The Mardin branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) also said in a statement that dozens of political prisoners have been transferred from the Mardin Prison to Tekirdag jail.
Sick political prisoners in Mardin’s E-type prison are kept waiting in handcuffs in cells when they are taken to see a doctor, the IHD said, calling that “torture and maltreatment.”
In the meantime, in comments this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out a possible amnesty for prisoners. “An amnesty will not take place. I have said that many times,” he said.
Erdogan had promised in a speech in Diyarbakır last week that prisons would be emptied and that those in the mountains – a reference to PKK fighters – would be allowed to return to their homes.