A veteran woman Turkish journalist who remained in nine month long pre-trial detention has been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment at the police custody after she got re-arrested on trumped-up charges when the court decision to release her was not enforced by the government, resulting in a traumatic experience that her lawyer says she has been unable to cope with.
Hanım Büşra Erdal, a court reporter and a lawyer, was subjected to intrusive naked search at the police station and humiliated by the police officers when she was picked up from the prison cell where she was preparing to walk away after the judges ordered her release from nine-month pre-trial detention. Erdal whose indictment lacks merit for any evidence of violence and terror except her published articles in critical Zaman daily was ordered to be released on March 31 pending trial. Yet, the government intervened in her release amid outcry by pro-government circles including propagandist journalists who wanted her to remain in jail indefinitely. As a result, another arrest warrant was issued against her on the same day before she managed to make one step outside the walls of the prison.
As if crushing her hopes to be free is not enough, Erdal was taken to the police station and detained there for a day before she was placed into the prison again. Despite she did not present any risk of possessing a contraband or a weapon as she was directly transferred from her prison cell, police forced her to get naked in the detention, subjected her to intrusive search and humiliated her dignity for hours as part of an unlawful punishment that amounted a torture. Erdal was traumatized with this terrible experience according to her lawyer who gave a statement to that effect in the courtroom.
Ümit Kardaş, the lawyer of the journalist, told the court on April 27 hearing that “my client was subjected to the inhuman treatment. She won her freedom but put back to jail again. A month passed since her terrible ordeal in police station but she has not covered from that trauma yet.” While the lawyer is defending her in the courtroom, Erdal burst into tears. “You could say this was a torture and abuse,” Kardaş emphasized.
He said the naked search is allowed only if it the circumstances warrant such practice. “She is a journalist and was picked up from the prison. She was routinely going through checks and searches in the prison already. By forcibly removing her clothes in police detention, the government wanted to humiliate and abuse her,” Kardaş explained. He said the independence of the judges were also violated as they were dismissed right after the release decision. “The logic here is clear: these people won’t get released no matter what,” he alimented.