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Turkey: Concern over trial of police accused of rape and torture of teenagers

Nazime Ceren Salmanoglu, then 16 years old, and Fatma Deniz Polattaş were detained by police officers and taken to the Anti-Terror Branch of Police Headquarters in Iskenderun in early March 1999.

They say they were subjected to horrific torture including rape, beatings, suspension by the arms as well as forced "virginity tests" by doctors.

The "confessions" obtained under this torture provided the basis for sentencing the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights to long prison terms after being charged with membership of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and taking part in a violent demonstration against the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Fatma Deniz Polattas, 19 at the time of the alleged torture, described her ordeal:

"A police officer asked me to 'take off my trousers and socks.' I again was scared and obeyed. I was standing. A police officer in uniform asked me to 'bend.' Afterwards he inserted something into my anus. It was something long and serrated. At that moment a bleeding started. I was totally bent. They were beating me with their sticks, saying 'stand straight."

There is an increasing risk that the case will reach the statute of limitations - in this case seven and a half years - and charges against the police officers will be dropped.

Amnesty International is also calling on the Turkish government to remove the statute of limitations in cases of serious human rights violations such as torture and killings by the security forces.

From the start obstacles have impeded the case's progress. State doctors' reports initially covered up the torture, which led the prosecutor to decide there were no grounds for a trial to be opened.

Extensive psychiatric evaluations subsequently corroborated the allegations of torture, so that the prosecutor's decision was overturned.

The trial finally began on 14 April 2000, but then the court waited 28 months for medical reports to be forwarded from Turkey's Forensic Medical Institute.

Amnesty International Media Director Mike Blakemore said:

"The repeated delays to this case have called into question the ability of the courts to bring suspected human rights abusers to justice.

"The Turkish authorities must ensure that all allegations of torture are investigated thoroughly, independently and impartially, and any perpetrators are swiftly tried and punished."

This is not the first time the Turkish justice system has failed victims of human rights violations, particularly where police officers stand accused of torture and other abuse.

In November last year Amnesty International highlighted several other cases in which, despite the Turkish government's declaration of 'zero tolerance for torture', the courts were unwilling or unable to take action.

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