Torture and Suspicious Deaths in Turkish Prisons

On July 1st, 2018, Zeki Güven, the former intelligence chief of the Ankara Police Department who was arrested by a Turkish court in May as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement, was found dead in his bed at Sincan No 1 F Type Prison. According to the official statement, Zeki Güven allegedly died from a heart attack; however, given the previous incidents and deaths in Turkish prisons, his death is being viewed as suspicious. Other suspicious deaths in the prison have been listed as ‘died due to heart attack’. None of them received detailed autopsies from independent institutions. Nonetheless, Güven did not have any known medical condition. His friends have noted that he never smoked and took well care of his body. Thus, Güven, who went to prison in perfect health died in prison because of a “heart attack” right before his hearing is quite suspicious.

Turkish prisons have turned into death houses during the Erdoğan regime. Güven is not the first and will not be the last who has died in the prison. Stockholm Center for Freedom has tried to record people who died since 15 July 2018 in Turkey to the extent it is possible. SCF has compiled 117 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format. Among these people, there are teachers, academicians, volunteers for philanthropic organizations, businessmen, engineers, and doctors.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment visited Turkey in November 2016 and found that torture was widespread following the failed coup, particularly at the time of arrest and subsequent detention. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, expressed serious concerns about the rising allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in Turkish police custody since the end of his official visit to the country. The reported abuse included severe beatings, electrical shocks, exposure to icy water, sleep deprivation, threats, insults and sexual assault. The Special Rapporteur said no serious measures appeared to have been taken by the authorities to investigate these allegations or to hold perpetrators accountable.

Families of the jailed individuals such as Yurt Atayün (former head of İstanbul antiterror division), Ahmet Altan (working journalist for more than twenty years), Taner Kilic (Amnesty’s Turkey director), and many other individuals are worried that their loved one may be the next victim.

We wholeheartedly condemn the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Turkish prisons and detention centers. We urge Turkish authorities to stop torture and ill-treatment, and obey United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT).

Download sample statement as a word document:

We urge everyone to take action. Express your views or send attached statement to following addresses:

1) U.S. Department of State
Email: https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform
Phone: (202) 647-6575
Twitter: @StateDept
Website: https://www.state.gov/

2) United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC)
Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org
Phone: (+41) 22 917 9656
Twitter: @UN_HRC
Website: www.ohchr.org/hrc

3) Human Rights Watch
Twitter: @hrw
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsWatch
NY Address:350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
Tel: +1-212-290-4700
Fax: +1-212-736-1300

Emma Daly, Communications Director
Tel: +1-212-216-1835
Fax: +1-212-736-1300

4) Human Rights Foundation
Twitter: @HRF
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/humanrightsfoundation/
New York Address:350 5th Ave., #4515 New York, NY, 10001
Phone Number: (212) 246-8486

5) Freedom House
Twitter: @FreedomHouseDC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FreedomHouseDC
Phone: 202-296-5101
Fax: 202-293-2840

Annie Boyajian, Advocacy Manager

6) Amnesty International
Twitter: @amnestyusa
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amnestyusa

7) International Federation for Houman Rights
Twitter: @fidh_en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FIDH.HumanRights
110 East 42nd street, Suite 1309 NY 10017 New-York
Phone Number: 001 646 395 7103

8) International Court of Justice
Email: information@icj-cij.org
Phone: (+31) 70 302 23 23
Fax: (+31) 70 364 99 28
Twitter: @CIJ_ICJ
Website: http://www.icj-cij.org/en

News and reports of torture in Turkish prison:

Erdogan regime started executions in prisons after the elections (July 2018)

AST report on cruel and unusual punishments in Turkey (April 2018)

UN Report on the impact of the state of emergency on human rights in Turkey, including an update on the South-East (March 2018)

Tortured to death; holding Gökhan Açıkkollu’s killers to account

Stockholm Center for Freedom report on suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkish prisons (March 2017)

Platform for Peace and Justice’s comprehensive report on the prison conditions in Turkey (2017)

Human Rights Watch’s report, “In custody: police torture and abductions in Turkey” (2017)

Take a look at Stockholm Center for Freedom’s updated list of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey (as of July 1st, 2018):


Yurt Atayün’s daughters are worried for the health of their father. Yurt Atayün was the former head of İstanbul antiterror division and has been in prison for 4 years & now is in solitary confinement for 6 months.


Widget not in any sidebars