Gay Jailed and Beaten In Turkish Military Prison
UK Gay News, 1 June 2005

LONDON, June 1  –  Imprisoned Turkish gay activist and conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan is being violently abused in the military jail at Sivas in eastern Turkey, reports David Allison of the gay rights group OutRage!.

“There is a serious danger that he will be murdered – either by fellow prisoners or by the Turkish military authorities” Allison said.  “The prison guards are encouraging other prisoners to attack Mehmet, by spreading the lie that he is a terrorist.”

“Mehmet is now on hunger strike in protest at his detention and maltreatment” he added.

“Following his refusal to cooperate with the military authorities, he is charged with “insubordination in front of the unit”, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment under Article 88 of TACK (Turkish Military Penal Code).

“Mehmet’s trial is scheduled for 9 June. The Turkish legal and military systems are notoriously unfair and harsh. There is no way he will get a fair trial,” added Allison.

Outrage! is backing a campaign by War Resister International (WRI) to press the Turkish Government to halt the violent abuse of Mehmet and to release him from prison.

Both organizations are asking for help for Mehmet.  And there are three ways to help.

■  Send an email to the President of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer

■  Send an email to the Turkish Ambassador in London, Mr Akin Alptuna

■  Write to:  His Excelency Akin Alptuna, Ambassador of Turkey, Turkish Embassy, 43 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8PA.

Additionally, an online petition, organized by WRI is available.

Mehmet Tarhan was arrested on April 8, early in the morning.  He was then brought to a military unit in Tokat, accompanied by military police.  Because Mehmet Tarhan is refusing to co-operate in any way, he was then transferred to the military prison in Sivas.

A gay and anarchist activist,. he declared his conscientious objection on October 21, 2001, and continued anti-war activities in public ever since, without going into hiding.

A first trial on April 28 was adjourned to 26 May, to call several soldiers from his unit as witnesses.

Meanwhile, Mehmet Tarhan is imprisoned in the Military Prison at Sivas, where he is facing death threats and abuse.  Suna Coskun, Mehmet Tarhan’s lawyer, reported on the abuse her client faces today.

On arrival at the Military Prison in Sivas, staff sergeant Mustafa Selvi threatened Mehmet Tarhan with transfer to ‘Common Cell No 2’, where the ‘wildest’ prisoners are imprisoned.

Later Mehmet Tarhan was ordered to enter ‘Common Cell No 1’ on his own.  The cell was dark, and the inmates (who he could not see) ordered him to sit down on a chair next to the door.

They started to ask questions.  They wanted to know whether he was a terrorist or traitor, in which case they would kill him.  Then the inmates started to beat Mehmet Tarhan, and insulted him because of his long hair.

Prisoner Ertan Mertoglu showed his weapon to Mehmet Tarhan and threatened to kill him.  This attack was ended by other prisoners.

Mehmet was then transferred to the dormitory, where a few moments later the same prisoners attacked him again.  They beat him everywhere and pulled on his hair.

The attack turned into an act of near-lynching.  After 20 minutes, other prisoners again stopped the attack.

Following the attack in Common Cell No 2, the light bulbs in the cell were tightened again, so that the normal light in the cells was made to work again. This indicates that the attack had been prepared.

Later, the prisoners who beat Mehmet Tarhan came to him and told him that staff sergeant Mustafa Selvi had told them that he was a terrorist, and “you know how you have to deal with him”.  They said that this was the reason they beat him.

Mehmet Tarhan was then transferred to a single cell, but every time Mehmet Tarhan left the cell, the prisoners Ertan Mertoglu, Hakki Dincel, Ersoy Özbulduk, and Ercan Kizilboga threatened him.

They said to him:  “We could have killed you on the first day if we wanted.  But we still can do it.

He was fearing of his life, and therefore did not tell anyone.  But then the prisoners demanded first money, and later clothes, and telephone cards.

On April 29, the prisoners Dincel, Özbulduk, and Mertoglu demanded 500YTL (about €290 or £200) and added he would know what to expec, if he did not pay.

Mehmet replied that he was unable to pay such an amount.  One week later he submitted to the threats and handed over 300YTL to Kizilboga and Mertoglu.  Then, his extortioners demanded clother.

On May 9 they demanded three black suits.  To guarantee that he would deliver, they forced him to call his sister and listened during the phone conversation.

Two days later,  She brought two black suits, shoes, ties, and shirts to the prison, which were handed over to Mertoglu by the prison authorities.

Mehmet’s upper lip and the right side of his lower lip cracked as a result of the various attacks on him.  He is suffering ecchymosis at the chin, the neck, and other parts of his body.

As a result of being beaten on his chest he suffered from breathing problems. In the following days, he continuously lost hair.  Because of being beaten on his knee, legs, and feet he suffered from ecchymosis there, and for a long time had difficulties standing up.

Mehmet informed the prison authorities about the abuse on his first day.  Nothing was done to stop the abuse, and the authorities actively encouraged other prisoners to abuse him.  

After her visit on May 19, Mehmet’s lawyer alerted the prison authorities, and demanded an examination of Mehmet Tarhan and a new lock for Mehmet Tarhan's cell.

On May 20, the prison authorities recorded the abuse, and promised to ensure his safety.  However, War Resisters' International and Mehmet Tarhan’s friends and lawyers still fear for his safety.