Allegations of severe overcrowding in Turkey’s post-coup prisons have proven to be true with a recently-arrested lawyer complaining about lack of space in holding cells in an anonymous letter.
Ten arrestees are being held in a custody cell as small as 16 square meters, a lawyer from Turkey’s eastern region sent a letter to Emin Çölaşan, a veteran columnist from the country’s left-wing Kemalist daily, Sözcü.
In his Sunday column, Çölaşan criticized the Gülen movement of being behind the controversial Sledgehammer and Ergenekon cases that he considers victimised innocent people with fabricated evidences. Yet, he added that Turkey did not experience such a crackdown as wide as this scale even back in those days
What follows is the translation of some of the letters Çölaşan has published to support his above-mentioned claim.
“I am a 50-year-old lawyer with 26 years of experience. I have never had links to any terrorist organisation. Police raided my home and found three legally-circulated books, two CDs and some dollar bills. I was detained and later arrested although the dollar bills found at my home were not carrying serial numbers the government has been looking for [as an alleged communication method between coup plotters]. I was surprised to see inside the prison. There were prosecutors, teachers and police officers who had been earlier arrested on very simple grounds. Teachers who had been arrested since they were a member of a labor union; civil servants who had been arrested just because they had account at Bank Asya…
We, ten people, stay in a 16-square-meter cell here. Two of us stay on the floor as there is no [enough] bed. Prosecutors, teachers, lawyers and police officers… We are not allowed to read books.
We can barely take a shower with the hot water they give us in plastic buckets, for just a few minutes twice a week. Believe me, all this inconvenience does not hurt as much as the bleak picture regarding the rule of law does.
There are no criteria followed to detain people. Complaints are enough. This has turned into a social wound.
The worst part is true criminals tap into this situation. Not even a single judicial member of sound mind dares to ask: ‘What are you doing? Do CDs, books and dollar bills lead to a terrorist organisation?’ We read your columns in prison. Please spread the word in the country’s agenda.”
A female judge from one of Turkey’s western provinces, who also wants to remain anonymous, complains about the dire conditions in prison as well.
“Dear Mr. Emin Çölaşan, I write you from prison. I am a judge with 10 years of experience in penal courts. I am in the 67th day of my arrest. I was arrested with my public prosecutor husband. We have never had any ties to any group.
We were arrested along with a large number of judges and prosecutors from our province. (The judge who ruled on our arrest is a judge at labor courts that have nothing to do with the issue!) It is the greatest misery I have ever lived in my life that I don’t know when this illegal detention and persecution would come to an end. My husband is held in a prison in another city. We have no opportunity to meet or communicate. We have no salary as we were removed from profession. Our assets and the money at the bank were confiscated. We have a 8-year-old son. He was sent to his uncle. We have also another son of three years.
We have now become dependent on the low-income poor man who used to be dependent on us to rent our home.”