Turkish minister denies allegations of police torture in capital Ankara

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has rejected claims voiced by a pro-Kurdish MP that officers at the Ankara Police Department tortured the recently-detained staff of the Justice Ministry, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Monday.

Dozens of former and current staff members of Turkey’s Justice Ministry were detained earlier this month as part of an operation that followed an investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The detained ministry officers are accused of having links to the Gulen movement, led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, which is viewed as a terrorist organization by the ruling AK Party (AKP) government.

Ankara also blames Gulen and members of his movement for masterminding the failed military coup attempt that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP on July 15, 2016.

During a speech in Ankara on Monday, Soylu rejected the alleged torture by officers at the Ankara Police Department, arguing that the claims are “inconsistent, baseless lies and smears.”

“Turkey insists on standing on the side of democracy and human rights. Zero tolerance to torture is our eternal pledge to our nation,” the minister added.

Soylu also claimed that Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a human rights activist who stated the torture claims, was a Gulen movement member who “infiltrated into the Turkish Parliament.”

Gergerlioglu recently announced that the attorneys and families of at least 46 people informed him that they were tortured while in custody in Ankara’s Police Department. He then called on the Ministry of Interior to make a statement about the allegations.

“I have always been a human rights defender. I oppose torture without thinking who suffers it. Your slander cannot cover up the torture [used by police in Ankara],” the lawmaker on Monday tweeted in response to Soylu.

The HDP also released a written statement on Soylu’s “offensive remarks” and argued that they are aimed at “covering up the torture” that Gergerlioglu claimed to have taken place at Ankara Police Department.

“Who should be prosecuted on human rights violations, torture, ill-treatment and all kinds of other unlawful practices [carried out in Turkey] is Suleyman Soylu himself,” the party further underlined in Monday’s statement.

Mustafa Yeneroglu, a former AKP MP who resigned from the party back in October at the request of Erdogan, in a tweet, criticized those who attempt to cover up alleged cases of torture in Turkey.

“Neither they serve the law nor our people. Turkey does not deserve to be in this situation. Human dignity comes before everything else!” Yeneroglu on Monday held forth.

In a report titled “In Custody: Police Torture and Abductions in Turkey,” the Human Rights Watch (HRW) previously noted that people in Turkey are at risk of torture in police custody, especially if they have been accused of terrorism or of being linked to 2016’s attempted coup.

Although Gulen and his followers deny the allegations against them, over 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, and nearly 150,000 civil servants, military personnel, and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in Turkey over coup related charges since July 2016.

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