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Growing evidence detainees tortured in Turkey: HRW

Growing evidence detainees tortured in Turkey: HRW

ANKARA, Oct 12: Human Rights Watch claimed Thursday there was growing evidence of detention abuses in Turkey after last year's failed coup, warning that torture in police custody had become a "widespread" problem, reports AFP. The US-based watchdog cited "credible evidence" of 11 cases of serious abuse including severe beatings, sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault as well as threats and being stripped naked. But it said the 11 cases represented a fraction of the credible narratives reported in the media and on social media. "Such reports indicate that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey has become a widespread problem," HRW said in its latest report. The alleged victims are suspects accused of links to terror organisations, it said, or those authorities believe are linked to the failed coup. Some detainees had reported ill-treatment to prosecutors or during court hearings, allegations which HRW said were not investigated "effectively". The group accused Ankara of failing to act to "stamp out the sharp rise in abusive practices in police custody over the past year". "As evidence mounts that torture in police custody has returned to Turkey, the government urgently needs to investigate and call a halt to it," Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, urged in a statement. HRW said victims were scared to complain for fear of reprisals against their family. The group also said there were five cases of abductions in Ankara and the western city of Izmir between March and June "that could amount to enforced disappearances". In one alleged case cited by HRW, Onder Asan, a former teacher, was "abducted" in April and was missing for 42 days before he turned up in police custody and was then sent to pretrial detention. The Turkish government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Last month, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey had "zero tolerance for torture", noting the government's commitment to human rights. HRW said the "greatest risk" was for suspects detained over alleged links to the coup-plotters or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara blames the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organisation it has dubbed the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO). Gulen strongly denies Turkey's accusations and insists his movement promotes peace. Since July 2016, over 50,000 people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen. The group also warned of the pressures on lawyers who face "obstacles and risks" as well as the fear of reprisals while representing their clients.

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