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Lawyer Investigated to Reveal Child Torture

22.09.06
An investigation was launched against lawyer Erkem for her statements as Bar
Association official related to child torture in local prison. She given
only 10 days to prepare her defense or forgo defense rights, but is denied
access to court files.

The Izmir Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation against
attorney Nalan Erkem who in 2003, as an executive of the city Bar
Association Group to Prevent Torture, publicly disclosed the existence of
torture and mistreatment of children held at the local Buca prison.

The investigation started after the prosecution received formal permission
from the Ministry of Justice but Erkem told bianet on Wednesday that she was
informed she had to prepare her defense in the next ten days or forgo her
right of defense altogether.

Erkem said her right to defense was being violated with authorities refusing
to give a copy of the case file to her lawyer as required by the Criminal
Procedures Law article 153.

In the said period, as member of the executive board of the Izmir Bar
Association Group to Prevent Torture (IOG), Erkem had passed on information
and allegations to the press related to incidences of torture of children at
the Buca prison children's ward, their denied access to legal counsel and
refusals by prison authorities to requests of transfers.

The incident and reports coming prior to a riot at the children's ward were
later referred to as reasons for a riot in the compound by the national
press and were reported under headlines ranging from "Torture in Prison" to
"Signs of a Riot Were There".

Erkem maintains that public revelation of the information which they had in
many folders led not only to subsequent talks with senior officials on the
issue but also an overall improvement in conditions for children held in
prison and the construction of the Bergama prison for minors. "At the end of
this period child inmates are in far better conditions" Erkem told bianet.
"This was realized through us making these torture claims known. But the
cost of this is my being put on trial".

IHGD: End the investigation immediately

The Human Rights Agenda Association (IHGD) to which Erkem is a member of has
issued a statement demanding the investigation to end immediately noting
that the prosecution's argument, some three years after the incident, was
that she had made a statement on an incident which was subject to
investigation before the investigation into the prison riot had been
concluded.

IHGD's statement said Instead of investigating those human rights advocates
in Turkey who are struggling to prevent torture and mistreatment incidents,
prosecutors have the responsibility to impartially and thoroughly
investigate claims of torture and mistreatment, bringing those responsible
in front of justice".

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