In Turkish Prisons: A Report from Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s concerns in Turkey continue to be as they have been for some years past, the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, widespread and systematic torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners, and the imposition and use of the death penalty. There is also concern that the difficulties lawyers experience in seeing their imprisoned clients and preparing the defense case and the use of statements in court that are alleged to have been induced by torture may affect the fairness of trails in military courts.

The exact number of political prisoners in Turkey at the present time is not known. On August 1, 1984, a government spokesman told the press agency, Agence France Presse, that 7,500 political prisoners were held in military prisons. However, this figure does not include those political prisoners whose legal proceedings have been completed and who are serving their sentences in civilian prisons, nor does it include those persons not yet charged, but held under martial law, which permits incommunicado detention in police stations for forty-five days.

Although civilian government was restored to Turkey following elections in November 1983, martial law continues in twenty-three of the sixty-seven provinces including all major cities, such as Ankara, Istanbul, Adana, Izmir, and Diyarbakir, and a state of emergency exists in twelve further provinces. Political offenses continue to be tried by military courts, although special state security courts have been established in eight cities to deal with political offenses committed after May 1, 1984.

The Turkish authorities usually refer to all political prisoners as “extremist militants” or “terrorists.” During the five years preceding the military coup of September 1980 political violence had resulted in more than 5,000 assassinations by right-wing and left-wing groups. Some groups have continued to engage in violent opposition to the government. However, although many of those now in prison for political offenses have been charged with violent crimes, Amnesty International knows of hundreds of political prisoners whom it considers to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for their nonviolent political or religious activities or beliefs, in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association as laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights to which Turkey is a State Party. They include members of the Turkish Peace Association, the Turkish Workers’ party, the Turkish Socialist Workers’ party, the Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ party, the Turkish Communist party, TOB-DER (the teachers’ association), and IGD (the Progressive Youth Association).

Many journalists, publishers, writers, translators, and academics have been prosecuted under Article 142 of the Turkish penal code with “making communist propaganda,” simply because of their involvement in the publication of material which expresses left-wing political ideas. Nearly 1,500 trade unionists are on trial because of their legitimate trade union activities. Although the leading members of DISK, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, have now been released from prison, their trial, which started in December 1981, continues; and with the incorporation of DISK-affiliated unions in the trial the total number of defendants is now 1,474, for seventy-eight…

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