Turkish foreign ministry staff detained in Gulen probe 'tortured', lawyers say

Turkish foreign ministry staff detained in Gulen probe 'tortured', lawyers say
Five foreign ministry workers detained last week as part of an ongoing probe have been 'tortured' and 'threatened with sexual assault' while in custody, the Ankara Lawyers' Bar Association said.
4 min read
29 May, 2019
The Ankara police has denied the claims [AFP]
Five Turkish foreign ministry staff detained last week as part of an ongoing probe linked to a 2016 coup attempt have been tortured while in custody, the Ankara Lawyers' Bar Association claimed on Tuesday.

The statement by the lawyers' association followed allegations lodged on Sunday by an opposition MP who accused the Turkish authorities of torturing an undisclosed number of the 91 diplomats arrested last week.

The allegations have been denied by the Ankara police.

Those detained at the Ankara police department's financial crimes wing were swept up in an ongoing probe related to a 2016 coup attempt that Turkey blames on exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen denies playing a role in the attempted coup.

Once an ally of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gulen is said to have waged a decades-long campaign to infiltrate the country's military, education system, and government institutions.

A frequent allegation is that followers of Gulen - now classified by the Turkish government as members of a terrorist organisation - stole exam results for a variety of entry tests for civil service positions and universities, enabling supporters to cheat their way into high-powered jobs.

Those detained last week are among more than 200 people accused of cheating on entry exams for Turkey's foreign ministry between 2010 and 2013.

Since their arrest, both an MP for the pro-Kurdish opposition People's Democratic Party (HDP) and the capital's largest association of lawyers have alleged that several of the former diplomats have been subjected to torture.

Lawyers from the Ankara Lawyer's Bar Association met with six of those detainees after reports by HDP MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu and opposition activists circulated on social media last week.

Five of the six detainees Ankara bar association lawyers spoke with alleged that they had been removed from their cells and taken to a dark room where they were stripped naked or partially naked, handcuffed and tortured.

The detainees accused authorities of beating them on their heads with batons.

Interrogators then allegedly threatened to sexually assault them using the batons if they did not confess. The detainees say interrogators then inserted oil or a lubricant into their anal cavities.

One detainee claimed an interrogator threatened that he would "not be able to sleep with his wife" again.

The detainee who did not report being tortured claimed that he had heard reports of torture from other detainees.

Ankara police on Tuesday denied the allegations, claiming the detainees had been allowed hundreds of prior meetings with lawyer and that daily health checks had shown no problems.

"All actions and proceedings regarding the people detained as part of the investigation are being carried out in accordance with the law," read the statement.

The bar association concluded that the torture detainees had been allegedly subjected to was of the kind which "does not leave marks and [evidence of] ill-treatment".

The detainees also alleged that they had been subject to insults and threats during multiple rounds of questioning and had ultimately been forced to sign confession statements.

The five detainees who were allegedly tortured confirmed that they had been subject to daily medical checks but said that they had been too scared to inform the doctor of the alleged torture.

Turkey's ongoing probe has seen some 77,000 people arrested for links to Gulen and around 130,000 others have been dismissed from state jobs since 2016.

The initial arrests of suspects accused of being "coup plotters" by the Turkish government were marred by subsequent allegations of torture, including threats of sexual assault, by international human rights groups.

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