Yılmaz was among 10 prisoners allegedly subjected to torture and ill treatment by prison officials. Inmates were battered, harassed and taunted to commit suicide by prison guards in a series of incidents that started 6 April, Evrensel reported. Yılmaz himself was hospitalised on 10 April, and died shortly after. He was scheduled for release on 12 April.
“We were told it had been a heart attack. But when we were washing his body before the funeral, we saw rope marks around his neck and that his eyes had bulged out,” the prisoner’s brother Hikmet Yılmaz told Evrensel.
Ferhan Yılmaz’s eyes were bloody, his nose was swollen and appeared to be broken, and there was a bruise and a large bump on his chest. His lips were swollen too, and he had stitches on his right foot when the family was able to eventually see him, according to the brother.
The cause of death was noted as ‘Infectious Disease’ in the death certificate, as obtained by journalist Hazar Dost.
However, Turkey’s Prisons and Correctional Facilities Directorate General had announced the cause of Yılmaz’s death as “cardiac arrest” in a statement released on Tuesday.
The directorate mentioned another inmate who was reportedly hospitalised with injuries inflicted by prison guards.
“Convict Halil Kasal, cited in the news as being in the ICU, remains at the correctional facility and has no medical issues,” the directorate said, accusing independent media of disinformation.
The family of Halil Kasal provided the media a recording of their most recent phone call with the prisoner, where he gave a detailed account of the ill treatment in Silivri Prison.
“With no provocation at all, they came and slapped me, they insulted me. I had an attack due to my mental health issues,” Kasal is heard as telling his mother on the call.
Kasal also said guards had stepped on his head with their boots, beat him and other prisoners, and tore at their beards. The prisoners were also placed in padded cells afterwards, where a guard gave Kasal a shoestring and told him to kill himself with it, he said.
The Silivri Public Prosecutor’s Office also said news about Yılmaz’s death was false and misleading, in a statement released on Wednesday.
“There have been no marks of battery or duress, or of cuts, gunshots or strangulation found on the deceased, who was transferred to the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institution for the final identification of the cause of death,” the prosecutor’s office said.
According to the preliminary autopsy, the injuries apparent on Yılmaz’s body could be attributed to “symptoms that could occur during medical interventions”, the office said.
A “meticulous investigation” will be carried out with security cameras, witness statements and the autopsy report, the office added.
The prison guards involved in the incident are still on duty, Mezopotamya News Agency reported .
Meanwhile, 10 inmates who reported ill treatment have been transferred to 10 different prisons, according to human rights advocates.
Lawyers’ groups, human rights associations and civil society advocates held a press conference on Friday to announce that the inmates were separated and sent to different prisons.
The rights advocates told reporters that all 10 inmates had reported being driven to suicide by Silivri Prison officials.
Taking the matter to parliament, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir said disregard for the law had reached unprecedented levels under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
“Prisons have become laboratories for experimenting with violence. Suspicious deaths and suicide attempts have been on the rise. It is apparent that there is a grudge against the people, which reflects inside the prisons as well,” Taşdemir said.