Turkey - The Torture and Imprisonment of Student Campaigners

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This place is not like anywhere else you know. Once you have gone through the door, you will not emerge in one piece. -- officer of the Anti-Terror Branch, Ankara Police Headquarters

At night I heard screaming. The next day they stripped me totally naked. Then things happened ... -- student protester

I was on the way to my home ... when I was detained ... From the day that I was detained I was subjected to various forms of torture. I was badly beaten, subjected to sexual assault, abuse, death threats and rape threats. -- student protester

In late 1995 and throughout 1996, there was widespread student protests in Turkey. Students were calling for the abolition of tuition fees (which at some universities had risen by 350%), an increase in state loans, and for the removal of police, gendarmerie and special security forces from campuses. The students were also attacking the deterioration in the education system and calling for an end to privatisation.

The methods of protest were: demonstrations, petitions, sit-ins and refusal to pay fees.

Article 54 of the State Constitution grants everyone the right to free and equal education.

Following a petrol bombing in Ankara (30 March 1996), 31 students from universities within Ankara, including several seen as prime movers of the student protests, were illegally detained for up to two weeks. Whilst held in illegal detention, the students were deprived of sleep, beaten, tortured and sexually abused. The illegal detention of the students happened only days before a major student protest planned for Istanbul on 24 April 1996.

At their trial, 'confessions' were presented as 'evidence'. Confessions that were beaten and tortured out of the students. At their trial, the students withdrew their confessions, claiming that they had been obtained under duress.

Evidence was planted at flats used by the students.

During the trial, it was claimed that the students belonged to a terrorist organisation called Devrimci Genclik (Revolutionary Youth), a Marxist organisation intent on violent overthrow of the State, an organisation that no one had heard of and appeared to only exist in the imagination of the state security apparatus. None of the accused students had any track record of involvement in terrorist organisations, all had been involved in organising or participating in peaceful, democratic protests.

Turkey is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Turkey has failed to investigate the charges of torture, as it is bound to do under Articles 12 and 13. Its submission of 'confessions' obtained under torture is a contravention of Article 15.

On 6 December 1996, Ankara No 2 State Security Court convicted eight of the students. The maximum sentence handed down was 18 years imprisonment. Amnesty International has adopted five of the students as Prisoners of Conscience, three are on release pending an appeal.

There were violent disturbances in court following the passing of sentence. Police savagely beat journalists, relatives and fellow students. A former parliamentarian was seriously injured and had to be taken to hospital.

There has recently been a spate of violent attacks on students, especially left-wing and Kurdish students, resulting in the deaths of several students.

Turkey: Torture and Mistreatment In Pre-trial Detention By Anti-terror Police, Human Rights Watch, March 1997

Turkey: Student campaigners tortured and imprisoned, Amnesty International, September 1997

More information on the case may be obtained from:
Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, LONDON WC1X 8DJ, England
tel +44-171-413-5500 / fax +44-171-956-1157
e-mail info@amnesty.org
Web http://www.amnesty.org

Justice in Turkey?
(c) Keith Parkins 1998 -- June 1998 rev 2
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