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18.02.2008, Turkey, Contemporary Lawyers Association Izmir Branch:
Human Rights Lawyer put on trial five years after statement about children tortured in turkish prisons

Contemporary Lawyers Association Izmir Branch

Trial and summary of events

The first trial of the criminal proceedings against Ms Nalan Erkem, who is a prominent human rights lawyer and member of Izmir Bar Association, will be held on 27th February 2008 at the Izmir 4th Heavy Penal Court (case file 2008/1). The trial was based on the statements made by her to the media concerning the torture and mal treatment allegations and subsequent riot in Buca Prison’ Juvenile Ward on 6 November 2003. The prosecutor office seeks up to three years imprisonment on the grounds that Ms Erkem “abused her power” by stating in her press conference that the children were tortured and maltreated in the Juvenile section of the Buca Prison and the lawyers of the juveniles weren’t allowed to meet their clients.

The first trial session will be held on 27 February 2008, at 11 am.

What happened in Buca Prison in 2003?

Ms Nalan Erkem, in her capacity as board member of the Izmir Bar Association in 2003, prepared a report on the events of 2003 in Buca Prison, based on data collected from the Bar Associations Working Group for the Prevention of Torture, the Children’s Commission, the Prison Commission and the Bar Association’s Legal Aid Service for Criminal Suspects:

·    On 5 November 2003, the prison prosecutors’ office requested the Izmir Bar Association to assign lawyers to 42 children from Buca Prison Children’s Ward, who were charged with rioting.

·    The children’s claims of torture and mistreatment were recorded in the prosecutor office’s protocol. A group of lawyers went early in the morning to the prison, to inquire the incident. The first eight lawyers interviewed the children and took their statements. They furthermore attended the prosecutors’ office’s investigation, making sure that the wounds and similar physical traces were recorded by the prosecutors’ office.

·    The second group of lawyers was not allowed to see the children. The second group of lawyers, which arrived later at the prison, was not allowed to see the children. They were obstructed; the petitions for transferring some of the injured children to the hospital weren’t taken. The lawyers were told in an insulting manner that the prison prosecutor was on sick leave and the prison director had no such obligation. The lawyers at the scene drew up a minute in order record the situation and the official response. Furthermore the lawyers reported to the Bar Association.

·    During the investigation, 14 children told the prosecutor that they were constantly beaten by the prison guards. These statements were recorded and the prosecutor even made sure personally that the injuries of four children were recorded too.

·    Nevertheless, the chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation declared that no mistreatment took place.

·    Apart from the statements to the prosecutors’ office, the lawyers found out in the statements of six children, that the children were kept in the prison yard with their underwear after they were removed from their ward. The children also said that they were beaten in the yard and put into cells without cloth or sufficient blankets, where the beating continued.

·    They also stated, that they were threatened by the prison authorities not to speak about the beatings during investigation.

·    There have been applications concerning torture before the riot. 8 children or their relatives applied to the Izmir Bar Association Working Group for the Prevention of Torture in regards to mistreatment. These applications indicated that the children were held in cells which were infested with rats and that the children were subject to collective beatings.

·    Adv. Nalan Erkem made a press statement in her capacity as Board Member of the Izmir Bar Association responsible for the Working Group for the Prevention of Torture based on the obstructions towards the lawyers and the collected findings.

·    The press statement was followed by news in the newspapers on 7 November 2003, with the headings “The riot was to be expected” (Cumhuriyet), “Torture claims in Buca” (Milliyet), “Did the prison riot break out due to torture?” (Hürriyet). Afterwards statements of CHP parliamentary Ahmet Ersin, the Head of Izmir Bar Association and many other lawyers took place in the media. However only Adv. Nalan Erkem, who was responsible for the Working Group for the Prevention of Torture was subject to a prosecution even though she had performed her duties as lawyer and board member of the Izmir Bar Association.

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