The alleged suicide of Zaki Y. M. Hasan, a foreign national who was arrested in Turkey on charges of espionage on behalf of of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is the latest in a series of suspicious deaths in Turkish prisons and detention centers where torture and ill treatment have been widely reported.
Hasan was found hanging from a bathroom door in his solitary cell in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison on Sunday morning, according to a statement from the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hasan and another foreign national identified only by the initials S.S. were detained on April 15, 2019 and formally arrested four days later.
In the same prison İbrahim Halil Özyavuz, a brilliant medical doctor who was jailed in May 2018 as part of the Turkish government’s massive witch-hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement, died after he was subjected to heavy torture by police officers while in pretrial detention. Yet, authorities ruled his death as a suicide.
Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven exposed the murder and said doctor Özyavuz’s body showed traces of torture witnessed by family members who came to retrieve his remains for funeral in İstanbul.
In another case, Zeki Güven, the former intelligence chief of the Ankara Police Department who was arrested by a Turkish court in May 2018, was found dead in his bed at Sincan No 1 F Type Prison on July 1, 2018. Many suspected he was killed by Turkish intelligence agency MIT because he knew too much and could very well expose the dirty laundry of the Erdoğan government. He did not have the opportunity to appear in court to testify and provide details of clandestine operations run by the Erdoğan government.
According to the official statement, Güven died from a heart attack; however, given previous incidents and deaths in Turkish prisons, his death is viewed as suspicious.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in jails and detention centers, where torture and ill treatment are being practiced. In the majority of cases, authorities concluded they were suicides without any effective, independent investigation.
Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 126 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey.