Historic verdict finds Turkish officials caused activist’s death in custody

Two prison guards and a prison director have been given life in prison for torturing political activist Engin Çeber to death in a Turkish prison in October 2008 in what Amnesty International says is a historic moment for justice in the country.In a re-trial of 60 public officials, a further nine officials received sentences ranging from five months to 12 and a half years for their role in Çeber’s death after 10 days in custody.“Public officials are seldom brought to justice for acts of torture and other ill-treatment in Turkey so this really is a landmark verdict,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia programme director.”The fact that a prison director has been found to be responsible for causing death through torture is also very significant.“State officials cannot shirk away from their responsibility to stamp out torture by ensuring police officers, prison guards or soldiers under their command do not perpetrate it under any circumstances.” The wait for justice for the family, however, continues as the verdicts are expected to be appealed.Speaking to Amnesty International, Engin Çeber’s sister Şerife Çeber said: “No verdict will ever bring my brother back. Most of those who took part in my brother’s torture or turned a blind eye to it are free. But three people have been held responsible for causing his death through torture. “We have not just pursued this case for justice for Engin. We have campaigned and spoken out so that there is an end to deaths in custody.”The re-trial began in February 2012, five months after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the verdict of the first trial, which saw four state officials receive life sentences for causing death through torture for the first time in Turkish history. The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals was based on clerical errors made on the court papers and the fact that some of the defendants had the same lawyer in violation of their right to a fair trial.  During the re-trial, a fourth prison guard who had also received a life sentence in the first trial received a sentence of two-and-a-half years, and was released, taking into account time already served in prison. Two police officers were sentenced to seven-and-a-half years– two-and-a-half years per case for the torture of Engin Çeber and two other detainees. Another three prison guards received sentences of four years and two months, also multiplied by three. A sergeant who transferred Engin Çeber and two other activists to prison also received a sentence of two and a half years for torture. The prison doctor received a sentence of three years and one-and-a-half months for falsifying documents.