Firat News: ‘Ministry of justice exonerates torture!’

Although the Ministry of Justice has denied the accusation of the torture of eight people who were arrested during the Gezi Park protests, a refutation has come from 19 year old Özgür Yildirim who was, himself, tortured . Speaking, for the first time, to Firat News Agency (AFN)about what he had been through, Yildirim said, “My toes and my nose were burned. They insulted me on the basis of my Alevi identity, I was threatened with death. The manager of the jail forced me to sign a paper saying that I did not have any complaints as a consequence of this treatment in the prison. Now the Ministry of Justice exonerates the torture accusations.”

One of the eight people arrested and released during the Gezi Park protests was Özgür Yildirim, a freshman student in the Public Relations Department of the Mersin University. Nineteen year old Özgür Yildirim told the story of his arrest during the Gezi Park protests and the torture he lived through in the Metris Jail as follows: “At around 22:30 while fleeing from tear gas canisters fired by the riot police, we had found refuge in Rumeli Han (arcade). It was crowded inside. There were approximately 21 protestors as refugees with me. Although the arcade was locked from the inside with iron bars, it did not stop the policemen. Once they realized that we were inside, they started to fire gas canisters above the door. To run away from the effect of the gas we raced to climb to the 6th floor of the Arcade”.
Riot Police: “If we were authorized to fire, we would shoot you all”

While waiting for the end of interventions, riot police and undercover policemen appeared on the 6th floor. They beat us and pushed us down the stairs. They twisted our arms and handcuffed us to arrest us and they loaded us into police vehicles in Taksim Square. Then started the psychological torture. I was taken into custody for the first time in my life. When we arrived at the police station they told us to take off our shoe laces and belts. When I refused they made me lie down on the ground and took them off forcibly. Then they started the search. They wanted us to get naked for the search. When I refused they did it by force. During all these procedures they were continuously insulting and swearing at us with unspeakably indecent words. Then they locked us up in the prison cells. They refused to provide us with water and the use of the toilet so we started a hunger strike. Riot police standing in the hallway next to us said, “Oh, if they had given the permission to fire, we would shoot you all.” His attitude and voice clearly showing how the government has filled the policemen with hatred and anger towards protestors. We used our right to remain silent, and after two days of arrest we were taken to court in the Çağlayan Justice Palace. There our lawyers, Sevinç Sarıkaya, Elif Çalışkan ve Tülay Odabaşı who were bringing us food, were beaten right before our eyes.
“They burned my nose and toes”

After the court ruled for our further detainment, they took us to Metris Jail. Although we were arrested for political reasons, my request to stay with political prisoners was rejected by the prison guards. They placed me in a cell with AKP and the MHP-minded (Conservative and Nationalist minded) prisoners convicted of murder and theft at A-21. The real torture commenced only after then. Whenever the Gezi Park protests appeared on the TV they started ganging up on me. They were calling protestors sons of bitches, they were saying if they were given machetes they would kill them all, as if to threaten me. In the night when I went to sleep in my top bunk, I woke up with the pain of my toes burning . They had placed papers between my toes and set them on fire. If I had not woken up I could have been totally burned. The next night when I was trying to sleep I felt a cigarette burn on my nose. After that night, I could not sleep at all due to uneasiness.
Insult to Alevism and Death Threat

“Despite stating that I am an Alevi they forced me to fast for Ramadan. When I refused, they started to put psychological pressure on me to do so. Ceyhun Öztürk, an inmate imprisoned for murder, began swearing and insulting my Alevi identity with, ‘All the Alevis are sons of bitches, they are against Islam.’ I was deliberately trying not to respond knowing there was eight of them. I went to sleep in the evening and woke up falling out of the bed because they had pulled the mattress out from under me. After that sleeping become impossible for me. I was ready for anything that might follow. The next night when I was lying on my bed they poured ink on my hands and my head. When I went down to wash my face, inmate Sükrü called me. I said I will be back after washing my face. When I returned he told me that I was not taking them seriously and listening to their words. Then he hit me in my chest, I was out of breath. Following this, he started to push and beat me. I protested at his behavior but then I realized that all of them had encircled me so I could not continue any further. They told me not to tell anything to the prison guards or prison administration otherwise the would finish me off.”


“I signed the papers under pressure and threat”

“I told my lawyer of all these events during her visit on July 10. My lawyer immediately requested a meeting with the prison manager and sent him a petition that all protestors should be transferred to a single prison cell. However, the prison manager did not agree with this request by saying that our lawyers and the media have different intentions rather than helping prisoners and there was no bad treatment to any of the prisoners. On July 11, the manager of the prison called me to discuss this. He asked me to sign a paper that said I was pleased to stay in my cell. Since the other inmates were threatening me with death I signed it because I was forced to do so. When I returned to the cell, a prison warden Can Burak Çil threatened me by saying, “If I was not fasting, I would have tied you and beaten you up.” After 5 days and nights of torture, I was called for a meeting with the jail prosecutor just before rejoining my lawyers. I told him of all the pressure and torture I had gone through. They forwarded me to hospital and I got a report on my health situation then I was transferred to a single prison cell and the next day the news of my release arrived,” Yildirim said.

Following the press release from the Ministry of Justice regarding the denial of the accusations of torture in the prisons, Özgür Yildirim protested “I’ve lived through all this.” He stressed that there is no difference between the mentality of those who gave the order to arrest him, to detain him, to put him amongst criminal prisoners and the mentality of the Ministry of Justice. He added that this press release demonstrated nothing but the Ministry of Justice’s effort to cover up the truth about what had been done to him in the prison.
Dear Gulcan

Here is the proof for the last report. A little slower than usual…..

I am OK. My son has been unwell but on the whole, we are fine.

Do take good care of you. It is a difficult, emotionally draining job you are doing gatherig all the reports. It is sad to read of so much abuse of power and you are so close to the pain of the people.

Love to you
Criminal Complaint to the Judiciary about Misconduct in the Jail

Yildirim’s lawyer, Sevinc Sarikaya, stated that the arrest of her client is not a legal but a political decision. She added that her client had become the victim of unlawful arrest at the first point yet in spite of all his opposition they had placed him amongst criminal prisoners which led to the torture he lived through. Furthermore, most recently, the press release by the Ministry of Justice victimizes her client one more time. She emphasized that the paper that was signed by her client under the death threat on July 11 has no validity. She added that “Everything is very clear, to show the thing that has taken place as if it had never happened is a known trick of the government. We will apply to the judiciary to bring about legal proceedings.” Sarikaya stated that after her client had been insulted and violated a day before she presented a petition to the prison management for the transfer of the eight protestors to the same cell, away from criminals, yet they failed to respond to her request. The abusive management of the prison had not carried out its duties, despite our warnings they had endangered Özgür’s life by placing him with criminals and encouraging the abusive behavior of the attackers. “We will apply to the judiciary for the complaint of misconduct in this institution,” she added.

Zeynep Kuray
18 July 2013

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