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Europe

Turkey clamps down on lawyers amid post-coup torture claims

media Sercan Aran of the Ankara Bar Association says recent torture and rape victims have been reluctant to file complaints Tony Cross/RFI

Two high-level Turkish generals resigned on Thursday ahead of a Supreme Military Council meeting to restructure the armed forces following the 15 July failed coup attempt. At the same time authorities placed more restrictions on lawyers' activities, as accusations of torture and rape of detained military personnel have surfaced.

Land Forces Chief of Staff General Ihsan Uyar and Training and Doctrine Command head General Kamil Basoglu stepped down on Thursday, the private Dogan news agency said.

Nearly half the armed forces’ generals and admirals have been dishonourably discharged and about 10,000 soldiers have been taken into custody, with 1,500 lower ranking troops released. Some of those detained have filed complaints of torture and inhuman treatment during their detention, although lawyers in Ankara say that many more have refused to do so.

Detainees have been beaten, deprived of food for up to three days, kept in inhuman conditions and kept in stress positions for three days, according to lawyers.

There have also been accusations of rape.

“One of our colleagues representing a general was in a private meeting with the general and asked him if he’s been tortured and the general told him that he had been sodomised with a police truncheon,” Sercan Aran of the Ankara Bar Association said on Thursday.

The general refused to file a complaint, especially since he did not want his family to know what he had gone through, Aran says.

“The lawyer asked if he knows of similar cases and he said that he knew other generals had undergone that kind of rape. Some other colleagues said they had seen other generals and soldiers had difficulty sitting down and they observed blood stains on their trousers.”

On Thursday, under this week’s state of emergency provisions, lawyers were deprived of the right to see or copy documents relating to an investigation if public prosecutors refuse them access.

Prosecutors were also allowed to order searches without a judge’s permission. The measure allows searches of lawyers’ offices and the seizure of documents found there.

So far no investigations into the torture allegations have been opened and while Aran believes there will be some, he is not optimistic about their outcome.

“There will be an investigation for sure, but I personally have concerns that those investigations will not be pursued effectively,” Aran says. “Because, apart from the 15 July investigations, few of the many similar allegations concerning police officers’ wrongdoings or mistreatment of civilians were brought to light or were investigated effectively to punish the police officers. There will be investigations but I think they will be cover ups.”

Several lawyers have said they were amazed to find themselves acting for alleged coup-plotters.

“Of course it is a difficult situation,” Aran comments. “I define myself as a socialist. Prior to coup, many of my clients were arrested, taken into custody or faced torture and I have fought for them. It is quite clear that some of the people who were arrested in the context of coup were the ones who abused my clients. But today we also defend their rights. If they commited a crime, they should be punished for that. But, as human beings, they should not be exposed to abuse of their rights.”

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