Witness Confirms Gokhan Teacher Tortured to Death by Police
Prison Cellmate Recollects Moments of Horror After Teacher’s Suspicious Death
Two years after his tragic death, details of teacher Gokhan Acikkolu’s last days have emerged and come to public scrutiny once again as one of his prison cellmates offered a harrowing account into the torture claims.
The Turkish public was stunned by revelations over police torture of Acikkolu in summer 2016. The Turkish authorities steadfastly refused torture claims then and stamped out an independent investigation into the tragic incident. In the official account, he died because of health problems presaging his prison days.
But according to his family, and independent observers, Acikkolu was tortured to death. He was brutally beaten and deprived of medical treatment although he suffered a heart attack in prison. Prison administration turned down his family’s quest for transferring him to a hospital for a proper treatment and denied access to most needed medicines for his diabetes. When he was finally brought to a hospital in August 2016, it was too late to save him.
More startling and disturbing was the fact that almost two years after his death, authorities cleared him of coup-related and terrorism charges and restored the now deceased teacher back to his post. It was too little and too late.
How he died in prison still remains a matter of controversy and mystery. The way how the Turkish government handled the case fuels genuine skepticism and suspicion over the official narrative. Almost nobody believes it in Turkey.
And with a former prison cellmate of the deceased teacher now publicly speaking about his last days, the issue has taken a new turn. Journalist Cevheri Guven, living in northern Greece after fleeing the persecution in Turkey, spoke to Bold Medya, divulging details about how police headquarters in Istanbul became the center of torture for people who were taken into custody in the post-coup crackdown.
The Gokhan teacher appears to be the first victim of torture in this notorious place. Guven says that there are more than 15 witnesses who corroborate the claim that Acikkolu was tortured to death.
A teacher, who spoke to Bold Media on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution back in Turkey, was staying in the next cell to Acikkolu’s room. He also suffered torture at the same place, Istanbul Police Department headquarters.
There was a doctor in the witness’ room. He tells Bold Medya that one day there was a chaotic and urgent hurry on the part of policemen who back and forth moved from one place to another in a state of panic in the corridors.
Panic pervaded the atmosphere, and police shouted at one another. At one point, the door of their cell was wide opened. Police fetched the doctor there and urged him to check the situation of Gokhan teacher next room.
The doctor, the witness said, was trembling and his hands were shaking when he returned the room. Police moved Gokhan teacher out. “We lost the friend [Gokhan teacher],” the doctor told other prisoners in the cell.
The account of the witness challenges the prosecutor’s official document about the cause of Acikkolu’s death. The teacher, the prosecutor wrote, died of his diabetes. But the doctor, who, upon the request of police officers, first intervened to help Acikkolu said he died of beating. He appeared to receive fatal blows to his head and died of torture, not diabetes.
Cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack, the doctor said was the probable cause of Acikkolu’s death, the witness told in a new video interview.
Acikkolu was among the tens of thousands of people who had been remanded immediately in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016. He was a history teacher at a public school in Istanbul’s Umraniye district when he, along with his wife, were both dismissed in a sweeping purge campaign.
His death was a particular case that stained public conscience as authorities denied a funeral service for his family. Istanbul Mayor’s Office refused to provide a space in a graveyard, so did the local officials in Acikkolu’s hometown, a village in the central province of Konya. Officials even proposed burying him in the “cemetery of traitors,” a policy briefly introduced as a form of punishment against coup plotters. Facing public criticism, the government later retracted the idea.
The teacher was interrogated neither by a prosecutor nor by the police officials. During his detention, he only faced mistreatment and, according to his family, torture. When his situation deteriorated, he was taken to a hospital, only to be sent back to the police detention.
Guven details how his wife, Mumine Acikkollu, struggled to deliver his medicines in the face of the official ban. After her first visit to custody to see her husband, she detected signs of torture and lodged a petition with the office of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor to investigate whether her husband faced torture. But her efforts yielded no tangible result in the chaotic atmosphere of the post-coup era.
Their agony did not end with the teacher’s death. The inhumane treatment by authorities and denial of funeral service added to their plight.
Two years after into his death, authorities still refuse to launch an investigation into the role of police officers over his death. But as more and more people speak out and more witnesses come out to offer their sides of the story, it becomes ever difficult for authorities to bury the truth and drag their foot for a thorough probe.
Acikkollu might have been the first victim, but certainly was not the last one. As long as his case remains unresolved, police officers and officials, who commit crimes against humanity and involve in torture, would acquire the feeling that they may get away with whatever they do. They should not have such an impunity and freedom.
If Acikkollu’s torturers are brought to justice, other officials would be deterred and further such incidents would be prevented.
Massive Erosion of Women’s Rights in Turkey
The Turkish government’s oppressive regime relentlessly continues despite all the efforts by the international community. Since 2013, the government has been targeting anti-government groups, mainly the Hizmet Movement, and the situation got worse after the so-called coup attempt in July 15, 2016. The government has no mercy in that even members of vulnerable groups such as women and children are jailed over baseless claims. This document briefly describes the current women’s rights issues in Turkey aiming to provide an overview of the current crisis.
Especially after the attempted coup, the government has been taking dissidents collectively into custody, and then sending them to jail with no solid proof. In some cases, women are arrested and tortured in place of their male family members such as their fathers or husbands. Because of their special needs, women constitute one of the groups that suffer the most from this oppression. Prison overcrowding is another serious problem. Inmates often sleep on the floor or by taking turns. Therefore, it is difficult to claim that prison conditions are suitable for women. Turkey has only a few prisons specifically designed for women, meaning that most female detainees stay in prisons built for men. According to the latest CEDAW report, there are many allegations of sexual harassment and violence amounting to torture and ill treatment in prisons and these claims are not investigated properly. Women in prisons face various types of harassment, for instance, in many prisons, unnecessary and excessively intrusive strip searches are conducted by male personnel, and security cameras placed in rooms–including those in bathrooms–are monitored by male guardians. Detainees have only limited access to personal care and hygiene products, which are often at risk of confiscation during ward searches. Female detainees are trying to make themselves heard by sending out letters, however, these letters do not appear in Turkish press as a result of censorship.
Incarceration during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth is another issue that needs immediate attention. There are many instances where security officials wait at the door of hospital rooms once they are notified of the patients’ registration to the hospital. Patients’ medical conditions are not monitored and they are deprived of essential medication and dietary supplements. Mothers are not allowed to nurse their babies during custody and once they are arrested, their infant babies are also sent to jail. Currently, there are more than 700 children under the age of 6 (including infants) living in prisons.
Violence against women is still an issue despite Turkey’s supposed commitment to end it. As the CEDAW report indicates, relevant laws do not criminalize domestic violence and propose no procedures to prosecute offenders. Because of insufficient protection, many women have either been murdered or sexually harassed and perpetrators are not afraid of prosecution. Honor killings continue to be committed as well, even within well-educated families. More than 100 women have been victims of honor killings since 2010.
Education is another serious problem of Turkish women. The rate of literacy is quite low compared to men (illiteracy is more than five times more prevalent in women than in men), because most families, especially in the east and south-east, do not allow their girls to go to school, but instead force them to marry under the age of 18. For university-educated women, on the other hand, the main problem is the alarming levels of gender inequality at work. Turkey ranks 131st among 144 countries in terms of gender equality.
We briefly touched upon a few of the problems faced by women in Turkey. Many human rights reports have extensively explored the aforementioned problems and others. As the Advocates of Silenced Turkey, we urge every individual and authority to be aware of the worrisome situation of women in Turkey and take necessary steps urgently.
Is Turkey Turning into a Mafia State?
Evidence from Sudan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Mongolia Day by day, Erdogan and his oppressive government are extending their long arms to different countries around the world via the government institutions, intelligence agencies, and affiliated NGOs to expand their witch hunt against the Gulen Movement (aka Hizmet, which means Service in English)-affiliated people. Among their unlawful activities away from Turkey are intensified spying, intelligence gathering and profiling of critics that at times has led to harassment, intimidation and hate crimes. Although a majority of the countries do not pay attention to the unlawful requests of this oppressive leadership, there are some developing countries feel obligated to cooperate with Turkish agencies as they violate significant human rights, fundamental freedoms, and customary international laws.
To name a few, some officers within Sudan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine did not hesitate to operate the abductions and deportations of Gulen Movement-affiliated teachers, businessmen, journalists, academicians, and doctors, as well as their family members in some cases. These countries not only violated the UNHCR protection but also international human rights laws and customary international laws. The details of these unlawful abductions and deportations were revealed in a brief report recently released by the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST). According to the Human Rights Watch, US Report of Religious Freedom, Amnesty International and several international human rights agencies, alleged supporters of the Gulen Movement in Turkey have been subjected to property seizures, arrests, detainments, imprisonments, as well as tortures such as use of stress positions, denial of food and water, detention in unsanitary conditions, in addition to beatings and rapes.
Gulen Movement is a global volunteer movement that focuses on science education, volunteerism, community involvement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Graham Fuller, an expert of the region and vice chair of CIA Intelligence Council, wrote an expert opinion just after the coup attempt entitled “The Gulen Movement Is Not a Cult – It’s One of the Most Encouraging Faces of Islam Today”.
The President of Turkey, Erdogan, falsely accused the movement of masterminding the coup d’état attempt on July 15th, 2016 and declared the movement as an armed terrorist organization, so-called Fetullahist Terrorist Organization – FETO. Following the staged coup attempt, a significant purge was initiated by the Turkish government and more than 170.000 people were persecuted without any concrete evidence.
However, Erdogan was not satisfied with purging the supporters of Gulen movement in Turkey and expanded its witch hunt against critics to numerous countries in the world with unlawful ways such as bribery, threats, and economic oppressions. Turkish embassies and government agencies including the intelligence services and nongovernmental organizations affiliated with the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have been involved in the profiling and harassment of the movement’s members in varying degree, scope and intensity.
This persecution abroad is personally approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that no country in the world will be safe for members of the Gulen Movement, claimed they do not have the right to life and vowed to pursue them wherever they are. His propagandists have even suggested assassinating and abducting critics abroad and have put a bounty on their heads.
The report of AST not only covers the unlawful abductions and deportations but also remind foreign security officers the risks Gulen Movement-affiliated people may face, offer recommendations and point out important points that countries should pay attention to resist possible attempts of the Turkish Government. They request that governments take necessary legal, administrative and practical measures are to ensure the protection of individuals who might be at risk and subject to possible abduction, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killings. They make a call on to take counter-measures including legal and other steps to prevent such blatant interference by the Turkish government in their country’s internal affairs and to protect their residents and asylum-seekers from the long arm of Erdogan.
Turkey, after the failed coup attempt has been a tumultuous ground for human rights. Many subtopics of human rights violations were brought into the spotlight especially after the declaration of the state of emergency. Perhaps some of the most important derivatives of such violations are torture and maltreatment. Although a state of emergency can help condense and concentrate efforts to bring perpetrators into justice it does not grant the government a blank check to suspend human rights. Even though a delicate matter like suspect and prisoner rights can never be dispensable, Turkey is currently infamous for infringing plenty of them from a global standpoint.
Since the coup attempt in 2016 a hefty sum of 160,00 people were detained 152,000 of which were state officials varying from teachers to lawyers. According to the government’s statement a majority of these detainees were associated with the Gulen movement. Since 2016 an overwhelming 7,907 cases of human rights violations occurred among these were 2,278 victims of torture and within that number 423 of them occurred under police detention. Methods of torture included but were not limited to thumps, electrical chairs, and sexual assault threats (particularly women). In addition, 48 extralegal killings were reported which were deemed tolerable under “troubling” provisions vaguely stated in emergency decree 667.
Besides the aforementioned brutishness, safeguards available to any prisoner were denied by the detainers. Among those violated safeguards were reasonable detention and legal review arrangements, access to medical reports, right to choose a lawyer, and last but not least monitoring the places of detention. Considering the absence of these safeguards combined with the turmoil within cells detainees came to be more vulnerable to mental and physical abuse.
Numerous examples of each different method of torture can be exemplified, whether that is a teacher beaten to death and his autopsy altered (teacher Acikkolu), or a woman tortured remorselessly in front of her husband (Asli S.). The defiling of basic detainee rights is not only tarnishing Turkey’s reputation in the world stage yet it is also obliviously and gradually driving the Turkish government to a dead end.
Download as a PDF File: https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/AST_6-22-18_Turkeys-new-normal_P15.pdf
Download as pdf: AST_Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Weekly_Dec18
Turkey’s Human Rights Violations | 12/11/2017-12/18/2017
1-“Turkish singer Zuhal Olcay indicted on charges of insulting Erdoğan”
2-“Detention warrants issued for 79 Finance Ministry staff over Gülen links”
3-“[VIDEO] Pro-gov’t journalist suggests killing family members of jailed Gülen followers”
4-“Turkish interior minister: 55,665 jailed, 234,419 passports revoked over Gülen links”
5-“Kurdish man dies under suspicious circumstances at Turkish police station”
6-“Pro-Erdoğan businessman offers $780K reward for arrest of Rubin and Fuller”
7-“PAKURD Chairman Baran refutes Erdoğan: I was tortured for 13 days”
8-“Detention warrant issued for wife of famous Turkish businessman İpek”
9-“Erdoğan calls on people to show no mercy to Gülen movement”
10-“[VIDEO] Pro-Erdoğan columnist: Gülen followers soon won’t be able walk freely in the US”
11-“Deputy PM threatens main opposition leader: He will be harmed if he doesn’t give up”
12-“Governor bans commemorative events ahead of Maras massacre anniversary”
13-” Prosecutor demands aggravated life sentences for journalists Ilıcak and Altan brothers”
14-“Report: Turkey twists peace declaration into an act of terrorism”
15-“Top police chief says 22,987 police officers dismissed over Gülen links”
16-“Turkish interior minister: 55,665 jailed, 234,419 passports revoked over Gülen links”
17-“Purged civil servant abducted from car in Turkey’s capital, wife says”
18-“Detention warrants issued for 33 more Turkish military members”
19-“Erdoğan’s news agency targets journalist covering Atilla case”
20-“Diyarbakır Bar files criminal complaints against Küçük, Uğur”
21-“Turkey boosting prison capacity to be able to jail 345,000 people in 5 years”
22-“8 including children, academics detained while on way to escape to Greece”
23-“Architect, son given 14 months in jail for insulting Erdogan”
24-“Newly married Antalya journalist behind bars for 17 months: wife”
25-“HRW Turkey head says post-coup crackdown aimed at building empire of fear”
26-“39 civilians detained in simultaneous police raids in 8 provinces”
27-“Gülen-linked teachers, businessman detained in Afghanistan”
28-“Investigation launched against news platform established by jobless journalists”
29-“CPJ: Turkey remains worst jailer of journalists in the world”
30-“Gendarmerie detain 13 people aged between 40 to 90 in Kurdish village”
31-“70 including Isparta military entrance processing commander detained on coup charges”
32-“Osmaniye woman detained while visiting ‘Gülenist’ husband in prison”
33-” Mother of purge-victim public servant beaten by police for protesting son’s dismissal from service”
34-“4 teachers given prison sentences of up to 10 years over coup charges”
35-“Ugandan teacher in Turkey’s Diyarbakir detained in post-coup probe”
36-“DIHA reporter Nedim Türfent sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in jail”
37-“Turkish man in Netherlands sentenced for threatening Erdogan critic”
38-“Gov’t selling properties of 30 media outlets seized from critics after failed coup”
39-“Governor bans film festival in Turkey’s Diyarbakir: report”
40-“Afghan officials detain Turkish teachers ‘linked to Gulen’ – report”
41-“Turkish teachers linked to Erdogan foe detained in Afghanistan”
42-“Afghanistan’s Intelligence Agency Releases Four Abducted Teachers Of Turkish Schools, Report”
Türkiye tarafından işlenenen İnsan Hakları İhlalleri | 12/11/2017-12/18/2017
1-” Yargitay üyesini başkasinin bylock kaydi yüzünden 16 aydir hapiste tutuyorlar”
2-“Mama ile beslenen kanser-hastasini- iyasi tutuklu diye tedavi etmiyorlar ”
3-“İşimizi istiyoruz protestosunda, veli saçilik ile 7 kişiye gözalti”
4-“Adli tip profesörü korur: işkenceciler yarin yargilanacak, her ihlal kayit altina alinmali”
5-“Enver Kiliç ve Zabit kişi’nin de MIT tarafindan kaçirildiği ortaya çikti”
6-” Doç. Dr. Korb: Hitler Almanyasi’nda yapilanlarla Erdoğan rejiminin zulmü çok benzer”
7-“Afganistan gizli servisi Türk eğitimciler ile bir işadamini gözaltina aldi”
8-“15 Temmuz’dan bu yana: 159 bin 506 gözaltı, 47 bin 523 tutuklama”
9-“Şüpheli ölüm: PKK zanlısı için ‘3. kattan atladı, intihar etti’ iddiası”
10-“Açık faşizm dönemindeyiz
11-“‘Diyarbakır sevdalısı’ Ugandalı öğretmen gözaltında”
12-” ‘Gülenci’ şantajıyla para alırken suçüstü yakalandı, serbest kaldı”
13-” Tutuklu eşini ziyarete giden kadın gözaltına alındı”
14-“‘Öğretmen Sümeyye Özkurt hapishaneye dönmesin’”
15-“Kütahya ve Antalya’da ‘gaybubet evi’ operasyonu: 12 gözaltı”
16-“Boydaklar tutuklu ama ‘mafya’ davasında tutuklu tek sanık da tahliye edildi”
17-“‘Gaybubet evleri’ operasyonu: 45 gözaltı daha”
18-” ‘Asfalta yatırıp çıplak arama’ davasının avukatına soruşturma”
19-“İzmir’de ‘OHAL Değil Acil Demokrasi Mitingi’ne OHAL yasağı”
20-“El konulan İpek Holding davasında Nevin İpek için yakalama kararı”
21-“Sanık polisin avukatı: Delilleri müvekkilim değil TEM şube karartı”
22-“Tutuklulara işkence ve infaz öneren Küçük ve Uğur’a suç duyurusu”
23-“Ankara’nın ortasında kaçırılan Ümit Horzum’dan haber alınamıyor”
24-“CPJ: Dünyada hapisteki gazeteci sayısı rekora ulaştı”
25-” Hamileyken tutukladılar doğum yapınca bebeğiyle tekrar zindana koydular”
26-” Tutuklandığından beri aynı pantolonu giyiyor”
27-“Hakkındaki deliller tutuklandıktan 3 ay sonra oluşturulmuş”
28-“Tutukluyken ağır ve sistematik darptan öldürüldü ama sorumlusu yok..”
29-“7 yıl 6 ay ceza alan Fatma Salın’ın hikayesi”
30-“Ankara’da bir kaçırılma olayı daha!”
31-” 24 kişiye 10 kişilik yemek, tek tip kıyafet, hakaret ve tehdit”