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Turkish court hands life sentences to guards responsible for activist's death

A Turkish court on Monday sentenced two prison guards and a prison director to life in prison for the torture and death of anti-government activist Engin Ceber while in police custody. With the life sentence, the court also sentenced nine other officials to prison terms of varying length. The re-trial began in February when the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed a previous conviction reasoning that there were clerical errors and defendants did not receive a fair trial because of their representation by a single lawyer. During the re-trial, the life sentence of one police officer was converted to a sentence of two-and-a-half years. Two other police officers were sentenced to seven-and-a-half years and three prison guards to 12-and-a-half years. The verdicts are expected to be appealed in the near future. Amnesty International [advocacy website] welcomed the sentencing [press release] as a "historic verdict."

Following Ceber's death in 2008, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court in 2010 initially sentenced [JURIST report] several guards to life in prison. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] that it was the first time a Turkish court had convicted a senior prison official for the conduct of guards under his command. Nineteen defendants were convicted for their role in the activists' torture, including a prison doctor who was sentenced to more than three years for falsifying documents about the health of the inmates. Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin apologized on behalf of the Turkish government [JURIST report] and suspended the 19 defendants following Ceber's death.

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