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Human Rights

Turkish court sentences torturers in landmark ruling

Ercivan Özcan, who was tortured in Manisa Prison until his arm was broken, managed to convict two guards (prison officers) despite the laws protecting the torturers.

CEVHERİ GÜVEN

BOLD EXCLUSIVE – In Manisa T Type Prison, Ercivan Özcan was beaten by the guards and his left arm was broken in several spots from shoulder to elbow. Moreover, he had pneumonia in those days. After Özcan was discharged from the hospital and returned to prison, he continued his legal struggle despite the pressure by the prison administration and had two guards who tortured him expelled from their positions as the court sentenced them to 5 years imprisonment.

Ercivan Özcan, who lives in the Turgutlu district of Manisa, was detained as part of Gülen movement-related probes on September 1, 2016, over the notices made during the period of the state of emergency. He was detained in Manisa T Type Prison for 18 months and was released pending trial during the first hearing on January 29, 2018. However, he experienced severe rights violations while he was in prison.

He was tortured when he had pneumonia

Ercivan Özcan, who was 57 years old when he was arrested, stayed with 30 people in a 10-person ward and contracted pneumonia due to bad prison conditions.

Özcan was diagnosed with pneumonia on January 18, 2017, but it was decided to continue his treatment in his ward, not in the hospital. The next day, during the morning headcount, Ozcan’s ward was raided by the guards because 3 detainees were late for the counting.

Ozcan who was standing in the cold in the courtyard for 20 minutes, exposed torture because of the expression he said with the pain of his illness; “If I have the right, I will take my rightful due it in the Hereafter”. According to the information given in the indictment, Özcan was laid down by the guards by twisting his two arms upside down despite him shouting that his “arm was defective”, he was repeatedly beaten with blows particularly on his left arm.

According to the forensic report of the Manisa State Hospital, Özcan’s arm was severely fractured between the shoulder and elbow, adding that there was severe and lifelong damage to his vital functions.

 

Eight days without surgery
Özcan was not sent to the hospital as a separate punishment after his arm was broken. Consequently, he lost his conscious in the ward. After 2.5 hours, his arm was completely black and swollen. Özcan was transferred to Manisa State Hospital upon the insistent demand of two doctors and pharmacists in his ward.

Because of pneumonia, Ozcan lungs were in poor condition that is why he could not be operated due to life-threatening risks. Blood was taken from his arm continuously every day until he was operated finally at the end of the eighth day.

He commenced a legal struggle
Özcan was sent back to prison after the surgery and when he saw that the guards Volkan Akkuş and Özgür Kutlu who had tortured him were still on duty, he started an intense legal struggle.

Özcan brought the matter to the judiciary after the prison management continued to send these two guards for the headcount in his ward.

Ercivan Özcan, who carried out the legal struggle with great care, submitted many the reports that ‘he was vitally injured’ attaching testimony of many eye-witnesses. In the light of clear evidence and reports, the court convicted two guards on May 13, 2019.

After a long legal struggle, the guards Volkan Akkuş and Özgür Kutlu were found guilty by the Manisa 2nd High Criminal Court. While Akkuş and Kutlu were removed from the civil service, they were also sentenced to 6 years imprisonment separately. Due to their good conduct at the hearing, this penalty was reduced to 5 years.

Ercivan Özcan’s arm was operated thoroughly and multiple fractures were treated.

Ercivan Özcan also filed a lawsuit against the two guards for damages due to the permanent loss of strength and weakness in his arm that gets worse day by day.

Human Rights

Jailed cadet’s mother stands up against oppression, conquers fear

Melek Çetinkaya is the mother of a jailed 19 years-old former cadet. A campaign led by her broke the spell cast by the Erdogan regime’s reign of terror. She gets detained by police whenever she steps outside her home. However, she has no intention to remain silent.

Lives of millions in Turkey turned upside down on July 15, 2016, with the coup attempt Erdogan labeled as “a gift from God.”

Cadets, many 18-19 years of age, were among those arrested on the night of the coup bid. Çetinkaya’s 19 years old son was one of those students.

Her mom kept telling during post-coup trails that former cadets, including her son, did not involve in any illegal activities on the coup night and highlighted that they were taken to different locations at the behest of their superiors, without touching any weapon. And forensic reports confirmed her claims.

Lawyers of the Presidency were present in the courtroom when 256 former cadets were sentenced to life in prison. Çetinkaya’s son, Furkan, was one of them receiving a sentence of life imprisonment.

Melek Çetinkaya tried hard to have her voice heard on social media. She has taken her struggle a step further by staging protests in favor of jailed cadets in Ankara’s crowded streets.

Her fight also brought other mothers together. Cadets’ mothers got detained whenever they cried out for the plight of cadets sentenced to life in prison.

Çetinkaya has been taking to the streets for three months to draw public attention, and she was taken into police custody for hours in each attempt.

Çetinkaya, trying to reach out to the public through her Youtube channel, has announced her plan to start a “March for Justice” from Ankara to Istanbul.

She said she would hold the March for Justice for cadets sentenced to life in prison, jailed pregnant women, children in prison, and dismissed public servants.

March for Justice, which kicked off on January 19 in Ankara’s Guven Park, met a police intervention which saw the arrest of Çetinkaya along with 66 people.

Police encircled Guven Park and surrounded the protestors. It was a clear message saying that police would not allow a march of 450 km between Ankara and Istanbul.

Çetinkaya was detained right after stepping out of the metro, before making to Guven Park where the march would start.

“I am an aggrieved mom. You gave life sentences to 19 years-old cadets. We have been silent for three and a half years, but you will no longer be able to silence us. Justice will be served in this country,” Çetinkaya said while being dragged away by police.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu was among the protestors when police waded in to disperse the group. Gergerlioglu confirmed the police intervention on his twitter account, saying, “Police violently suppressed Çetinkaya’s march for justice.” He also noted that the police physically assaulted him along with other protestors.

Police held Çetinkaya in detention for hours before releasing her late in the evening. And she was detained each day when she attempted to attend the march. Police went even further by apprehending Çetinkaya right after she left her home on January 21.

Anti-Terror Police took the stage this time. Çetinkaya was taken to Ankara’s Counter-Terrorism department. She had to endure waiting for hours while facing the wall and with her hands cuffed.

Police mocked her height and questioned her about how she learned to use social media. They did not provide her with a bed or mattress, and she had to sleep on the concrete ground.

Some people recorded videos on metros and buses to raise awareness about Çetinkaya’s situation. Those who recorded videos became the target of Erdogan’s fanatics.

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Human Rights

Understanding shifts in Turkey through Yamanlar College

Erdoğan Regime shut down nearly 1400 foundations, associations, and schools belonging to the Gülen Movement. Yamanlar College was one of the most emblematic ones. The college was the first college founded in the years when the movement was founded.

Starting to serve in the education field in 1982, the school preferred the modern education system. Cleric Mr. Gülen said to his followers that education is the fundamental problem of Turkey, and instead of building mosques or religious vocational high schools, they shall open modern schools.

Yamanlar College, the first school, established within this scope, became Turkey’s one of the most successful private schools. Afterward, the Gülen Movement founded 21 universities and nearly 1400 private schools in Turkey.

Erdogan accused the Gulen Movement in 2013 after the corruption operation targeted Erdogan’s four ministers and his son Bilal. These operations, known as the 17/25 December Corruption Operation, were closed with the dismissal of police and prosecutors.

Erdogan immediately sent the officers to the foundation schools belonged to the Gülen Movement to impose a fine, some of the schools were cut off the water, and some of the schools’ gardens were destroyed by constructing new roads.

The repression continued, and Erdogan started to confiscate the school administration. The complete confiscation of schools and the cessation of education took place after the controversial coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Seizing all the power in his hands after the coup attempt in Turkey, Erdogan declared the State of Emergency and started the presidential system. Meantime, all the foundation schools owned by the Gülen Movement were closed down.

The Erdogan regime has transformed most of these schools into religious vocational high schools (Imam Hatip in Turkish), where teachers mostly teach Salafi beliefs. The Gülen Movement’s first school Yamanlar College was one of them.

An event held during the first days of 2020 has launched a new debate in Turkey over Yamanlar College’s transformation.

The Sıla Foundation organized a conference on Shariah in the premises of Yamanlar used in the past as a sports hall and theater. İhsan Şenocak, one of the speakers at the Sıla Foundation’s meeting, wanted a declaration war against Israel and called the government officials, “You walk towards Tel Aviv, we’ll come after you.” These words received great support from the hall.

One of the significant issues discussed in the meeting was covering the picture of the Republic of Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk in the hall.

People wearing turban and robes in the hall and the speeches made were on the axis of the change after the school, which had modern education in the past, was taken away from the Gülen Movement.

The education system in Turkey experienced significant changes in recent years. The Erdogan regime opened thousands of new religious vocational high schools, or the existing schools were turned into religious vocational high schools. Families complain about this, but the number of schools that provide modern education is decreasing day by day.

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Human Rights

Pregnant behind bars with a two-year-old kid

Elif Aydın, 31, is one of the educators arrested in Turkey over the past three years. She was two-months pregnant when she was sent to prison in the western province of Gebze on May 25, 2018. She also had two kids, 6 and 3 years old at that time.

She couldn’t leave behind her younger child, Musab; thus, she brought him along to prison. They did not provide a separate bed for her son in the eight-person ward. The pregnant woman stayed by sharing the same bed with his son in prison for months.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) ‘s deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist, has been fighting for her release from prison.

Turkish law forbids the arrest of pregnant women; however, this ban has not been applied for suspects from the Gulen movement and of Kurdish origin.

Gergerlioğlu filed a complaint on July 1, 2018, with the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) against the judge and prosecutor who gave the arrest decision for Elif Aydın. A response from HSYK to his complaint came 1.5 years later. They have not investigated it so far.

“By this decision, HSYK has become an accomplice to this crime,” Gergerlioğlu said.

Elif Aydın, on the other hand, is trying to be the voice of other arrested pregnant women by revealing what she had been through.

 

Aydın: “I fell downstairs twice”

“I was the director of a private student residence. That was the only accusation leveled against me. My husband had stayed in prison for a year over links to the Gulen movement. They arrested me nine months after he was released from jail. I left my older child behind and took Musab in prison with me. And I was pregnant with my third child. We all three were trying to sleep in the same bed.

“I fell downstairs twice and was taken to the hospital. My kid, Musab, also fell downstairs several times, and his face and eyes got hurt. The ward was an eight-person ward, but there were times also where nine people had been staying in our ward. The prison is tough for a woman with a child. It was summer, fortunately, when I was jailed, so we could spend most of our time in the yard. When it became colder, we had to stay inside.”

“There was no hygiene in prison. Musab’s eyes caught an infection. He hit his head on the bunk beds many times. He fell off the bunk bed, and he hurt his head and mouth. I was pregnant and was seeing all these (Musab had been through) so, I grew depressed.

“Many pregnant women were arrested like me. And, this is still going on. There are no special arrangements or facilities in place for pregnant women and children in prison. Life is quite hard in prison.”

 

Thousands of educators arrested

Erdogan’s regime mainly targeted well-educated people. About 1,400 Gulen-affiliated schools, kindergartens, student residences, and universities were shut down. Thirty thousand teachers were dismissed, and their licenses were revoked. Thousands of teachers were arrested.

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