A man has lost his life after being arrested for theft by gendarmes in Turkey’s earthquake-hit southern province of Hatay on 11 February. A preliminary medical report indicates he was severely tortured.
Ahmet Güreşçi was taken into custody with his brother and accused of robbing a tobacco shop in the province as well as sexual assault, intentional injury and possessing drugs.
Güreşçi lost his life after being hospitalised beatings he received in custody. A preliminary report prepared by Altınözü Hospital stated that there were scratches and bruises on his body, his nose was broken and he had suffered a brain haemorrhage. The hospital has submitted his case to the Forensic Science Institute for an official autopsy report.
A report prepared by the gendarmes says Güreşçi was beaten by local people as he tried to rob the shop, he resisted arrest by the gendarmes and he beat his own head against the wall while in detention. Güreşçi’s brother Sabri Güreşçi also has marks of beastings on his body.
The brothers’ parents have lodged a complaint of torture and murder against the gendarmes. Sabri Güreşçi has identified five gendarmes who tortured him.
The case is being pursued by lawyers from the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), who said on Twitter on Sunday that both the family and the lawyers themselves were in fear for their lives.
The Lawyers’ Association said that it had confirmed that both brothers were tortured in custody, adding that Sabri Güreşçi and four other people were still being detained by the security forces.
“The ÇHD lawyers were threatened by the security forces who said, ‘this could happen to you too’, as they were following the legal proceedings and documenting the torture,” the Association said .
“Sabri Güreşçi and others in custody there should be transferred to another unit immediately. Neither Sabri Güreşçi nor our colleagues have any guarantee of safety,” they said.
A lawyer from the Association told Bianet that videos of alleged cases of looting were increasing tensions in Hatay and causing further despair and anger to both the people and the security forces, whose morale was already at rock-bottom.
Following the twin earthquakes that rocked southern Turkey (North Kurdistan) and northern Syria on 6 February, many people started sharing videos of people taking things from shops and markets. In many cases, the people in those videos were earthquake victims who were trying to obtain essential supplies in the face of severe disorganisation in humanitarian aid distribution.
“We see that this situation has caused an increase in incidents of violence.Since the allegations of looting people who use violence have started seeing their own actions as legitimate and fair,” the lawyer told Bianet.
Such incidents of violence can be observed in other footage circulating on social media. Some of those footage allegedly shows security forces beating people caught while looting.
Some accuse the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of escalating the violence in the earthquake area, as ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said last week that they would “intervene mercilessly in cases of looting”,
Nuray Özdoğan, a spokesperson for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Legal and Human Rights Commission, said on Sunday that the party had received numerous reports of incidences of unrecorded detentions and torture from the earthquake-hit region.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned former HDP co-chair also warned against lynching and torture incidents. “Never give credit to lynching and torture. Those are both serious crimes and very dangerous provocations. Please remain cautious, patient and calm,” he wrote on Twitter.