Couple subjected to electroshock, beatings, inhumane treatment at Turkish detention center
Müberra and Murat Boşcu, who were detained on October 17, 2016, were subjected to torture including electroshocks, beatings and strip searches as well as inhumane treatment during their 14-day detention, according to Müberra Boşcu, who spoke to the TR724 news website.
The couple was living in the Dinar district of Afyon province in western Turkey together with their three children. Müberra was a homemaker, and her husband was working at a private university dorm. They had a simple but happy life. A night raid on October 17, 2016 by plainclothes police officers upended everything.
Mistreatment by the police started right away at their home. “My husband’s hair was long, they held him by the hair and started beating him,” Müberra said. “They threw him against the wall, punched him in the stomach and banged his head on the sink.” They also rummaged through the house, she said.
Müberra was told to change her clothes, but a male officer wouldn’t leave her alone in their bedroom. “I just wanted to curl up and die from embarrassment,” she said. They were then taken away in separate cars.
The couple was accused of membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by US based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, he called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.
Upon their arrival at the police detention center, Müberra saw man kneeling down in the corridor being kicked and beaten. She was made to undress and squat naked in front of female police officers. She shared a small detention cell with two other women, and they all had to sleep in one bed. “We were surveilled by cameras round the clock, even in the toilets. We were made to shower in cold water, and our cell reeked of sewage, which kept overflowing.”
Müberra recalls that at one point the women in her cell were not allowed to nurse their babies. She added that during the entire episode they were subjected to verbal abuse and threats. “We were told to sign documents that stated pre-scripted confessions, and were threatened with harm to our children and families if we refused.”
Yet, Müberra says she later found out that her husband had to go through a much worse ordeal. She saw him one night during a routine hospital visit. “I recognized him from his voice and went to the other side of the curtain too see him. The doctor asked him if he had been beaten. He said no. But his eye was full of blood and he was barely conscious. The police got angry with me and said, ‘If he says no, then it is a no’.”
Murat later on told her he was brutally tortured to force him to sign a confession that had been made up in advance. He was completely stripped, doused with water and received electrical shocks in his arms, legs, hands and groin. “My husband later told me he may never be able to father children again. That is when I understood the scale of the torture,” she says.
The policemen wrote “traitor” on her husband’s forehead with a marker and showed it to the other officers to humiliate him. During questioning they put a plastic bag over his head. He was told to think about all the kinds of harm they could inflict on his wife. He was later made to drink some unknown liquid. “Then they made him sign a document while he was dazed and under the influence of the drink,” Müberra said.
Boşcu’s account bears the characteristics of widespread and systematic torture carried out by Turkish police following the coup attempt, which marked the beginning of an era in which such practices as torture, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention have become commonplace.
Torturers were protected by a government decree issued by President Erdoğan that provided blanket immunity for officials who were involved in coup investigations. Decree-law No. 667, issued by the government on July 23, 2016, granted sweeping protection for law enforcement officers in order to prevent victims from pressing complaints of torture, ill treatment or abuse against officials. There were multiple cases in which Turkish prosecutors refused to investigate torture allegations, citing this decree-law.
Article 9 of the decree states that “legal, administrative, financial and criminal liabilities shall not arise in respect of the persons who have adopted decisions and fulfill their duties within the scope of this decree-law.” The decree was criticized by human rights organizations for being a clear breach of articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party, yet it was never annulled. In fact, the Turkish parliament passed the decree into law on October 18, 2016.
Müberra Boşcu was sentenced to eight years, one month in prison and released pending a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Murat Boşcu was sentenced to eight years, nine months and remains in prison.
Müberra says she is determined to seek justice for the torture they suffered. “We have filed a complaint, and after we have taken the necessary legal steps in Turkey we will apply to international courts.” Until now no prosecution has been initiated against people who committed torture despite multiple complaints filed by the victims and their lawyers.
A delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), a Council of Europe-affiliated body, was in Turkey to conduct inspections between August 28 and September 6, 2016 and recorded some of the victims’ statements in its report. The delegation’s visit came amid widespread allegations first raised by Amnesty International, which stated that it had collected credible evidence that detainees in Turkey were beaten, tortured and on some occasions raped in official and unofficial detention centers across the country.
However, the details of the CPT report were never made public because Turkey vetoed the publication of the report and has not lifted its objection since 2016. In fact CPT President Mykola Gnatovskyy stated in 2017 that even though he “[wanted] to discuss the findings,” he could not comment on the report due to Ankara’s decision.
Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and over 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.” The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.