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Turkey: Lawyer threatened at gunpoint for defending clients from torture

The clients, Abdullah Gündogdu, Tahsin Atak and Ihsan Gülmek, had been detained and reportedly tortured - beaten, stripped and sprayed with a high-pressure hose for over two hours.

Amnesty International believes the lawyer’s life may be in danger and is also concerned at the allegations that his clients may have been tortured. The organisation is calling on its members to write to the Turkish authorities.

Amnesty International said:

“The Turkish authorities must take immediate and effective steps to guarantee the safety of lawyer Abdulhekim Gider, and must conduct a full and impartial investigation into allegations of torture of his clients. Anyone found guilty of torture must be brought to justice.

“Despite a declaration of ‘zero tolerance for torture and ill-treatment’ by the Turkish authorities we are still waiting for signs of serious and effective measures to combat torture and the impunity that goes with it.”

Abdullah Gündogdu, Tahsin Atak and Ihsan Gülmek were detained by police in the Pervari district of Siirt province on 30 July, reportedly on suspicion of aiding and abetting an armed organisation, the Kurdistan People’s Congress (Kongra-Gel), formerly known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

When Abdulhekim Gider visited them at the police station in Pervari on 1 August his clients appeared exhausted and frightened.

Abdullah Gündogdu could not stand upright. He said that he had not been given any food since the day he was detained, and that he had been stripped naked and sprayed with cold pressurised water for two-and-a-half hours, especially at his kidney area. He said that he had also had his testicles squeezed and had been beaten about the head.

Tahsin Atak and Ihsan Gülmek said that they had not been given food. Tahsin Atak later complained that he had been severely beaten on his body and legs. There was reportedly still blood on his legs and socks when his lawyer met him in prison.

The lawyer tried immediately to lodge a complaint that Abdullah Gündogdu had been tortured, but the Pervari prosecutor was reluctant and allegedly tried to persuade him not to do so. When he returned to the prosecutor’s office on 2 August, a police officer reportedly pointed his rifle at the lawyer and said to another officer, “I might accidentally pull the trigger”.

Abdulhekim Gider went back to meet with his clients but he says he was prevented from entering the police station by seven or eight police officers, including the local police chief, who surrounded him and apparently insulted and threatened him, because he had lodged a complaint of torture against them.

After he appealed to a senior police officer who came to the station, Abdulhekim Gider was allowed to meet his clients. As the lawyer left the police station, one of the police officers who had earlier threatened him said, “Your job is not going to be easy any more”. When Abdulhekim Gider asked what this meant, the police officer reportedly told him, “Go away! I don’t want to see you again. Bad things happen, and they are going to happen”.

Police have pressured the detained men’s relatives to change their lawyer. Police officers in Pervari have reportedly threatened Abdulhekim Gider since then. Groups of police have followed him in the street and police vehicles have patrolled conspicuously outside buildings where he has been conducting meetings with the families of his clients.

Abdullah Gündogdu, Tahsin Atak and Ihsan Gülmek were all remanded to Siirt prison at 11 p.m. on 3 August.

Background information

The Turkish government introduced a policy of ‘zero tolerance for torture and ill-treatment’ when it came to power in November 2002.

Recent reforms to Turkish law and detention regulations are designed to prevent torture, for example by reducing the length of time detainees can be held without charge, and granting them the immediate right to legal counsel. However, police officers do not always comply with these requirements.

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