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Imag­ine that place, prison, where peo­ple are kept under the direct respon­si­bil­i­ty of the State. And I’m not talk­ing about peo­ple who would have act­ed against that State, but ordi­nary, com­mon law pris­on­ers. Imag­ine that this same State, through its civ­il ser­vants charged with pro­tect­ing them, of main­tain­ing their safe­ty dur­ing their incar­cer­a­tion spent every day attempt­ing to humil­i­ate them instead, to break them, sub­ject­ing them to phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture. How did such a thing come to be? What is this State ? What­ev­er became of the Law?

There are many sto­ries, and they are ter­ri­fy­ing. Their con­se­quences are even more ter­ri­fy­ing. We feel as if we are liv­ing in a hor­ror movie; even before the blood from one per­son has dried, anoth­er one dies, killed one after the oth­er in this way, we can’t even guess who will be next.

Suspicious death in prison and its context

Our sub­ject will be Fer­han Yıl­maz, a com­mon law detainee, incar­cer­at­ed in type L prison n° 5 in Silivri who, last April 9th, fol­low­ing an episode of “dis­com­fort” was trans­ferred to Silivri’s hos­pi­tal where he died.

Why did Fer­han Yıl­maz die? How did he come to die? Who are the guilty par­ties, the ones to be held respon­si­ble? None of that is clear at the moment. We’re not talk­ing about details here, but of ques­tions as big as houses.

By ask­ing the right ques­tions, let’s attempt to explain as well as pos­si­ble, step by step, based on infor­ma­tion obtained from Ferhan’s broth­er, Hik­met Yıl­maz and from the ÖHD asso­ci­a­tion of lawyers and the Human Rights Asso­ci­a­tion (İHD):

1- For some time now, pris­on­ers incar­cer­at­ed in Silivri’s prison n°5 have been telling their fam­i­lies that they are sub­ject­ed by the penitentiary’s staff to humil­i­at­ing treat­ment, gra­tu­itous vio­lence and that the search­es are trans­formed into ses­sions of true suf­fer­ing. On this top­ic, there are state­ments from at least five detainees and their families.
This being the case, have inves­ti­ga­tions been car­ried out in the direc­tion of the prison’s man­age­ment and its civ­il ser­vants? Did some­one absolute­ly have to die? Were not the alle­ga­tions of tor­ture suf­fi­cient grounds for the open­ing of an investigation?

2- Some detainees stat­ed to their fam­i­lies and to the vis­it­ing del­e­ga­tions that pen­i­ten­tiary guards who came to their cell block on Wednes­day April 6th for the count­down slapped a detainee for no rea­son after which an argu­ment broke out between detainees and guards. There are also alle­ga­tions that, after this, one of the detainees was tak­en to the “foam room” (these are rooms with foam-cov­ered walls, “pun­ish­ment spaces” in pris­ons that are already suf­fi­cient­ly painful) and that he was kept there for a full day before being returned to the block, show­ing evi­dence of a beating.
Was an inves­ti­ga­tion opened con­cern­ing these allegations?

3- Some detainees state that on the day fol­low­ing this argu­ment, thus on Thurs­day April 7, some six­ty guards raid­ed this same block, that they removed all the pris­on­ers to the prom­e­nade, made them lie on the ground, strip searched them, that they stuffed into bags all the belong­ings in the block, that they humil­i­at­ed the pris­on­ers while they were on the ground, say­ing “yes­ter­day, you pre­tend­ed you were men, now you are like girls, we are the State, the State is right even when it is wrong, we’ll show you a film from Yeşilçam” [the Turk­ish Hollywood].
Was an inves­ti­ga­tion ordered con­cern­ing the admin­is­tra­tors who decid­ed this raid to con­duct strip search­es and humil­i­a­tions as described, and con­cern­ing the agents who exe­cut­ed the decision? 

4- Accord­ing to the tes­ti­mo­ny of a detainee who was psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly affect­ed by what hap­pened and who said to the guards he was going to kill him­self because of these oppres­sive tac­tics, they would have answered, mock­ing him and say­ing “here’s a razor blade, there’s some glass over there, there’s also a rope, go ahead, kill your­self.” Fol­low­ing which this detainee slit the veins in his wrist and was not even trans­ferred to the hos­pi­tal but sim­ply received first aid at the prison infirmary.
In what law is incite­ment to sui­cide by say­ing “go ahead” men­tioned against a detainee say­ing he will kill him­self? Has the iden­ti­ty of the guard in ques­tion been deter­mined and has an inves­ti­ga­tion been ordered con­cern­ing his behavior?

5- While sys­tem­at­ic phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal oppres­sion were tak­ing place in the prison, on the night of April 9, Fer­han Yıl­maz whose incar­cer­a­tion was sup­posed to end two days lat­er, did not feel well and was trans­ferred to Silivri’s pub­lic hos­pi­tal. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he was declared dead there. Did this death occur in prison, on the road or at the hospital?
What were the exact caus­es of Fer­han Yıl­maz’ death, where did he die, why are the author­i­ties silent about this?

6- Fer­han Yıl­maz’ fam­i­ly states that the young man’s body shows traces of a beat­ing, where­as the prison direc­tor declares he suf­fered a heart attack, and then picks up on rumors accord­ing to which Fer­han wished to com­mit sui­cide by swal­low­ing med­ica­tion, although no one could explain where he would have got­ten hold of any.
So what is the prison management’s expla­na­tion exact­ly, heart attack or suicide?

7- The fact Fer­han was trans­ferred to the hos­pi­tal either from his block or from the “foam room” still needs clar­i­fi­ca­tion. This is impor­tant since, if it was from his block, a pos­si­bil­i­ty still exists that he might have tak­en med­ica­tion in order to com­mit sui­cide, where­as, a per­son placed in the “foam room” can­not have any­thing in his pos­ses­sion allow­ing for an attempt on his life, except of course, for the prison guards…
The author­i­ties have still not clar­i­fied this mat­ter, despite our insis­tence. From where was Fer­han tak­en to the hospital?

8- On April 13, the Gen­er­al Direc­torate of pris­ons and places of deten­tion as well as the Silivri prosecutor’s office issued a press release in which they stat­ed clear­ly that Fer­han bore no traces of vio­lence and that these traces only appeared dur­ing the hos­pi­tal intervention.
How can they be cer­tain of this?

9- Accord­ing to nor­mal pro­ce­dure, Ferhan’s body must be kept and autop­sied, yet his death cer­tifi­cate reads “con­ta­gious dis­ease (com­mon law detainee)” The autop­sy report is required for the truth to be known about this sus­pi­cious death.
When will the autop­sy take place? 

10- On April 14, we learned that the pris­on­ers who shared the block with Fer­han were sep­a­rat­ed and trans­ferred to dif­fer­ent pris­ons. The del­e­ga­tions can­not gath­er clear and suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion from the remain­ing prisoners.
What was the emer­gency? Why were the pris­on­ers who were eye wit­ness­es thus spread about?

In the absence of an inquest : no mistreatment!

Such is the sum­ma­ry. We should also add that, accord­ing to the infor­ma­tion we obtained from the foren­sic medecine pro­fes­sor Şeb­nem Korur Fin­cancı, the exist­ing video record­ings do not for the moment plead in favor or against Ferhan’s death being caused by ill treatment.

In oth­er words, when it is per­fect­ly nat­ur­al for a fam­i­ly hav­ing lost one of its chil­dren to be sus­pi­cious when alle­ga­tions of tor­ture grow in impor­tance pub­licly, how is it that the Gen­er­al Direc­torate of pris­ons and places of deten­tion and the office of Silivri’s pros­e­cu­tor can deny sus­pi­cions of ill treat­ment, with­out even pro­ceed­ing to an inquest? Do they have offi­cial evi­dence that there was no ill treat­ment? No.

While Şeb­nem Korur Fin­cancı under­lines the impor­tance of the fact the swelling on Ferhan’s lips and the large ban­dage on his nose — seen on video images — must be exam­ined in order to under­stand if these traces result­ed from trau­ma or from a med­ical inter­ven­tion, and that this can only be clar­i­fied by an autop­sy, how can the office of Silivri’s pros­e­cu­tor be so clear in its pro­nounce­ments with­out one?

Image from the video

The fact is that a sys­tem­at­ic pol­i­cy is on place in order to break all resis­tance, intim­i­date and reduce into sub­servience both polit­i­cal and com­mon law pris­on­ers; that pris­on­ers in prison n°5 in Silivri, no longer able to stand these per­se­cu­tions, are even con­sid­er­ing sui­cide; that the “State pro­tec­tion” is noth­ing but emp­ty promis­es; that on the con­trary, the detainees need to be pro­tect­ed against the State; and that Fer­han died “under State pro­tec­tion”. Once again, trust was betrayed.

Is this not a extreme­ly ter­ri­fy­ing and painful “movie”?

Do you know what we should be doing at the moment? We should be going after the facts con­cern­ing every death occur­ring in prison, nev­er giv­ing up until each and every guilty par­ty is brought to tri­al. We should stay attuned to every infor­ma­tion reach­ing us from pris­ons. There’s noth­ing else to say about it..

Inhuman treatment in Bodrum prison

Mehmet Salih FilizIn oth­er infor­ma­tion, we find the forced trans­fer against his will of Mehmet Sal­ih Fil­iz, a 26 year old polit­i­cal pris­on­er, from the Type T high secu­ri­ty prison of Ödemiş in Izmir to that of Bodrum. One might won­der: “what’s wrong with that?” The answer would be: sev­er­al things. Mehmet Sal­ih suf­fers from intesti­nal can­cer for which he is treat­ed, he is con­stant­ly sub­ject to hemor­rag­ing and can­not han­dle his basic needs alone.

Bodrum prison where he was forcibly trans­ferred in this con­di­tion is an estab­lish­ment con­tain­ing only indi­vid­ual cells, with no assis­tance avail­able. At the same time, upon arrival at the prison, there is a man­datary strip search of the detainee; despite the prisoner’s refusal, he was sub­ject­ed to the abuse of a strip search nonetheless.

Once again, and in a prison the min­istry has just opened, we hear alle­ga­tions of tor­ture at admis­sion, and we are not in the least bit sur­prised. Because there is no end to his hor­ror movies-. And there will be none, as long as we will be sat­is­fied with behav­ing like spectators.

Note: Hasan Çelik, the pros­e­cu­tor who must pro­ceed to Fer­han Yıl­maz’ autop­sy and is respon­si­ble for the inquest at Silivri’s palace of jus­tice declined our request for an interview.

Aslıhan Gençay

Aslıhan Gençay

Aslıhan Gençay was born in 1974 and obtained a diploma from the Economic and Administrative Sciences Faculty of Izmir’s Dokuz Eylül University. Because of her identity as a leftist opponent, she was imprisoned for 10 years in 1992. She still bears the sequels of her “fast to the death”, hunger strikes, carried out in prisons in the year 2000. Following her liberation for health reasons, she began working as a a journalist. She wrote for the Radikal, Milliyet Sanat and edited the art and culture pages in Özgür Gündem. In 2016, a reprieve by the European Court of Human Rights was annulled and she was re-imprisoned for five years to carry out the rest of her sentence in the prisons of Sincan (Ankara), Tarsus, Kayseri and Sivas. She regained her freedom in May 2021. She is currently a chronicler for Davul Gazetesi and editor for an NGO.

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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