Thursday, January 22, 2009

Engin Çeber Case Commences

From today's The Guardian:
A landmark trial opened in Turkey yesterday of 60 police officers, soldiers and prison officials implicated in the death of a political activist from injuries allegedly sustained under torture.

The defendants, who include three prison governors and a doctor, are accused of inflicting intentional injury on Engin Ceber, who died from a brain haemorrhage in October after being arrested at a demonstration against police brutality.

Four of the defendants are charged with causing death through torture.

Human rights groups see the case as a litmus test of Turkey's willingness to combat torture and curb police abuses.

Observers say 29-year-old Ceber was kicked and beaten with metal and wooden bars in Istanbul's Metris prison after police accused him of resisting arrest. He had been detained after handing out leaflets protesting against lack of action against officers accused of shooting and paralysing another activist at a previous rally.

His lawyer says he was abused at a police station then denied treatment for days for injuries suffered in prison, a delay that could have contributed to his death.

Ceber's death drew a public apology from the Turkish justice minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, who blamed it on "ill treatment" and ordered an investigation.

Only some of those indicted appeared in court for the start of the trial. While 19 prison officers have been suspended, campaigners have complained that many of the accused have stayed on duty.
The Çeber case thrust the issue of police violence and impunity from prosecution into the spotlight.

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