At a time when reports are circulating about government plans to stage riots in Turkey’s prisons to eliminate political prisoners, panic broke out over a fire in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison on Tuesday which turned out to have been caused by an inmate setting himself on fire.
Media reports said a fire broke out on Tuesday around noon in Silivri Prison, where most of Turkey’s political prisoners are jailed. Police and firefighters were dispatched to the prison immediately. However, it later became clear that one of the prisoners had set himself on fire. Circumstances in and around the prison went back to normal.
There was no immediate information about the identity of the prisoner or why he set himself on fire.
There are widespread fears about the safety of political prisoners in Turkey’s jails. Earlier this month, lawyer Ömer Turanlı called on human rights organizations and the relevant commissions of the EU to monitor incidents taking place in Turkey’s prisons while expressing grave concerns about the safety of his clients due to claims of a staged riot.
In a series of messages from his Twitter account, Turanlı, who represents some former police officers and police chiefs who were jailed in mid-2014 for taking part in a massive corruption investigation, wrote: “There are concrete and serious claims about a meeting being held to order opening of gates [of holding cells] in Silivri [prison] and the shooting down of those arrested. … I am calling on human rights organizations and the relevant commissions of the EU to immediately monitor incidents taking place in Turkey’s prisons.”
An emergency training exercise was held at Burdur Prison after an alarm was set off on Nov. 16. Police cordoned off the facility and soldiers equipped with automatic rifles took security measures within the prison. Public prosecutor Sadi Doğan said that no other government offices were notified about the exercise at Burdur Prison.
Meanwhile, heavy weapons have been deployed in the Silivri, Şakran and Sincan prisons for reasons of security in a move that has ramped up concerns about the mass killing of prisoners.
Michael Rubin, an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), also wrote in early November that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might use the excuse of a prison uprising in order to launch an operation to crush the revolt and kill the prisoners.