Turkey’s intelligence units to interrogate inmates for up to 15 days – report

Turkey’s currently-discussed prison release bill would allow the country’s intelligence units to question inmates for up to 15 days by taking them from prisons, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Monday.

The practice, which has already been allegedly used by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), will be legalized if a related article of the controversial bill is passed in the Turkish parliament, according to a report by Alican Uludag from Cumhuriyet.

With the envisaged provision, those charged with or convicted on terrorism offenses can be taken out of prisons in order to be questioned by the MIT “force majeure”.

The questionings will take place at the request of the public prosecutor’s office and with the ruling of the criminal court of peace, without exceeding 4 days each time and 15 days in total.

The regulation is also expected to include “the consent of the inmates” prior to the questionings by the intelligence units.

Further, the prisoner release law, which aims to ease overcrowding in jails and protect detainees from the current coronavirus epidemic, excludes people awaiting trial or found guilty of terrorism, including journalists, lawyers, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and dismissed public officials most of whom were jailed in a post-coup crackdown after 2016.

Many have criticized the exclusion of political prisoners from release, while the draft law will free almost one-third of the inmates.

Ozturk Turkdogan, the president of the Human Rights Association (IHD), targeted the questioning-related article of the bill with accusations of violating the right to a fair trial and defense.

“These rights [to fair trial and defense] have basic constitutional assurances. Well, what is the assurance in that [questioning practice]? That cannot happen! That is a security-based perspective and has some other drawbacks,” the IHD head told daily Evrensel.

Turkdogan added that the MIT is a presidential affiliate on which the prosecutors have no authority to inspect.

“[So,] How can an individual benefit from his rights to fair trial and defense against such an institution [the MIT] that cannot be investigated even by the public prosecutor’s office? Do you think that he or she can use those rights?” the president of the human rights organization asked.

As was the case in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup, the inmates’ questionings by the MIT have been in place in the country, following the 2016 failed military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the report by Evrensel.

Evrensel cited reports from the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), showing three officially-confirmed cases from the predominantly Kurdish region southeast of Turkey.

In all the cases, the inmates were taken from their prisons without their consent in a bid to be questioned, the MA said.

Deniz Ozdemir, one of the taken-out inmates, was even tortured for ten days during the questioning.

The inmate was allegedly offered a deal by the Turkish officers during the interrogation to spy on his fellows.

Last year in August, some human rights organizations, including the IHD, held a joint press meeting, accusing the Turkish prosecutors of failing to investigate claims that a number of people were abducted in the capital city of Ankara.

The statement, which was read by IHD’s Turkdogan, underlined that Turkish authorities were neglecting their responsibility to effectively investigate human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice.

“The only thing that comes to our minds in relation to this incident is that a special unit within the state is carrying out these abductions and that everybody else is keeping quiet about these practices.

“We do not want one more report on extra-judicial practices. Turkey has to abolish those special units now. If Turkey is a state of law, it has to abide by them,” the statement warned at the time.

Turkish lawyers demand parliament to include jailed colleagues under prison release 

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