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Turkish justice minister apologizes for detention death, suspends 19 prison officials

[JURIST] Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin [party profile, in Turkish] apologized Tuesday on behalf of the Turkish government for the death of Engin Ceber, an anti-government protester who died after alleged torture while in police custody on Saturday. Sahin also announced that 19 prison officials were suspending pending an investigation into Cerber's death. The Guardian quoted Sahin as saying [Guardian report]:

"I apologise to the relatives of [Ceber] on behalf of my government and the state ... I am pushing this ahead with a high sensitivity. The number [of suspensions] could rise as the investigation widens. I am very sorry that such an incident was allowed to happen in Turkey at such a time."
According to Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], Cerber was arrested nearly two weeks ago [AI press release] while protesting the shooting death of another activist last year, and was brought to an Istanbul prison, where he was allegedly subjected to torture and severe beatings. He was taken to a hospital last week, where he later died. BBC News has more. Hurriyet has local coverage.

Tuesday's apology is apparently the first time the Turkish government has publicly apologized for police abuses or prison detainee deaths, although condition inside Turkish prisons have been internationally notorious for years. Last February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey violated the human rights of two men [JURIST report] when police abused them to inhuman and degrading treatment and then failed to properly investigate their allegations of abuse. In July 2007, AI released a report [text; JURIST report] calling attention to the Turkish criminal justice system's continuing toleration and condoning of torture and ill-treatment by police and investigators.

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