At least three prisoners were killed by Turkish soldiers in a prison riot that broke out on Wednesday night in the southern Hatay province, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
Inmates set several wards on fire because they were unable to contact their families or be transferred to a safer location days after Monday’s devastating twin quakes completely razed a significant portion of the Arab and Kurdish majority province, according to some who were able to contact their families.
Twelve prisoners in total were hospitalised, having suffered injuries and gunshot wounds when the gendarmerie opened fire on some 250 inmates. Inmates have since been transferred to nearby prisons, according to official sources.
News of the riots broke with a Twitter video showing men with their hands cuffed behind their backs made to lay on the ground, some with bloody injuries, in the prison yard.
Upon outrage, a Justice Ministry official told journalists Cüneyt Özdemir and Kenan Taş that the video came from a prison in Kahramanmaraş and not Hatay, both provinces affected dearly by the earthquakes.
Journalist Metin Cihan matched satellite images to the video, confirming it was Hatay. “This is bizarre,” Cihan said in a tweet. “It is easily verifiable. The ministry lied on a live broadcast. Why?”
Another video, recorded by a man in a high building wearing fatigues, shows the prison yard in smoke and disarray.
In a rushed statement released on Wednesday night, the Prisons and Detention Facilities Directorate General repeated the claim, saying “allegations on social media” had been false. In the initial statement, the directorate said there had been “no casualties”.
In a later statement, the prison was correctly identified as Hatay Type T Closed Prison Facility. “Necessary interventions have been made to prevent a prison break, put out the fire, and ensure safety for the penal facility’s detainees and convicts, within the framework of the law,” the directorate said, confirming three deaths.
“Baseless accusations that female inmates have been raped at the penal facility are completely divorced from the truth,” the directorate said.