Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Turkish Political Prisoners Massacred

On September 26, 1999, eleven political prisoners in a Turkish prison were massacred by police. The victims were imprisoned members of the People's Revolutionary Liberation Front Party (DHKP-C) and the Communist Party of Turkey-Marxist-Leninist (TKP-ML). Both organizations are currently waging people's wars to overthrow the Turkish government.

On September 26, 1999, police stormed the Uluncanlar prison in downtown Ankara using gunfire and teargas to retake the prison. Police used extreme brutality and took advantage of a tense situation created by prison administrators. Since September 2, 1999, water had been cut off to the prisoners' cells, visits had been prohibited and food packages from the outside had been limited. In Turkey, like most countries, the government does not feed the prisoners, prisoners must rely on friends or family outside to supply them with food. The government later claimed the massacre was justified because the prisoners would not allow guards to inspect a dormitory where, they claimed, a tunnel was being dug. After the massacre no tunnel was found.

In response to the latest massacre, bringing to 27 the number of Turkish political prisoners killed since 1995, prisoners from Turkish revolutionary organizations across the country rioted and took more than 100 guards hostage. In Istanbul large street protests supporting the prisoners took place, with police arresting more than 300 people. A wave of sabotage and bombings against government facilities across Turkey also took place in support of the prisoners' struggle.

The Turkish government is determined to break solidarity and unity among its political prisoners. Until now, Turkish political prisoners of diverse groups live together in open cells and organize themselves into communes. The Turkish government is seeking to isolate prisoners accused or convicted of political offenses by locking them into cells with no more than three people and isolating them from all other contact. To carry out this isolation plan, as well as to relieve overcrowding, the Turkish government plans to build an additional 20,000 prison beds. The increased isolation is expected to allow the easier torture, mistreatment and breaking of political prisoners' will to resist. Turkey has some 70,000 people in its prisons, of whom at least 10,000 are political prisoners belonging to assorted leftist political groups struggling to overthrow the regime. A smaller number of political prisoners belong to right wing Muslim fundamentalist groups.

A statement sent to PLN by the Turkish political prisoners at the Uluncanlar prison, denounced the attack and notes that hundreds of Turkish political prisoners have been murdered over the years by Turkish police and prison officials, mainly through medical neglect but also through torture, shootings and beatings. The prisoners stated that after the September 26 assault the bodies of some of the dead prisoners were decapitated and mutilated before being released to their families.

Halkin Hakuk Burosu, an attorney with the People's Law Office in Istanbul, who represents some of the political prisoners, described the bodies of the prisoners that were released to the families: "According to the physicians, some prisoners had been killed by bullets, several others were tortured to death, or severely wounded. The doctors also stated that many prisoners had knife wounds in the neck and arms." At least thirty other prisoners were hospitalized with serious injuries after the attack.

In their letter to PLN, the prisoners state that the massacre was wholly unjustified and the Turkish government was spreading lies to attempt to cover up the murders. Their statement ends: "We appeal to all revolutionary organizations, to democrats and progressives and to all people of conscience to protest against fascism in Turkey and to support the revolutionary prisoners. Fascism continues sweeping away all rights and creates tensions and actions within the prisons. A new massacre could take place at any moment."

Two days after the massacre, Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit met with U.S. President Bill Clinton to defend Turkey's human rights record. The United States is the largest supplier of weaponry to the Turkish regime and actively supports the government's counter-insurgency plans.

Sources: Financial Times of London, Lalkar, Resistencia, Reader Mail.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login