Belgian court acquits guards accused of torture, causing death of prisoner
A Belgian court has acquitted three guards who were accused of torturing a Turkish prisoner to death in the country's Jamioulx Prison in 2009, a move that could cause tensions between Turkey and Belgium.

The court claimed that the guards had acted in self-defense.

Thirty-one-year-old Mikail Tekin was detained on Aug. 7, 2009, as a result of a quarrel involving the traffic police. When the prison administration announced the cause of Tekin's death as "choking while eating," other prisoners protested, claiming that he had been subjected to torture while being transported to an isolation cell.

The Turkish Parliament demanded an explanation from Belgium following the release of an autopsy report listing the cause of Tekin's death as "physical violence."

Prosecutors stated that bruises had been found on Tekin's body following the autopsy and that the Belgian police had detained three guards. Guards working at Jamioulx Prison went on strike after their three co-workers were detained.

Human rights groups have criticized harshly the poor conditions in Belgian prisons. Some 10,000 detainees and convicts are serving sentences in prisons with a reported capacity of 8,200 beds.

Tekin's family vowed to appeal the verdict delivered by the court in Charleroi. Tekin's mother, Döne Arslan, rejected the court's decision, questioning how the court was able to find guards innocent when the autopsy report stated that Tekin had been beaten to death while his hands were tied.

Arslan also demanded an autopsy on her son's body be conducted in Turkey, claiming that Belgian authorities had tampered with the body to remove evidence of torture.

The Belgian news agency Belga claimed that three guards had transported Tekin to an isolation cell as he was making "a lot of noise" and the guards had to control the prisoner while transporting him to the cell.

Arslan claimed that guards who stood in solidarity with the other prison guards had an influence on the court's decision when they threatened to go on strike.

Turkish Consul General in Brussels Ali Barış Ulusoy, who attended the final court hearing, said the court's decision inflicted a wound on the conscience of family members and the public. He said Turkey's diplomatic mission in Belgium will continue to support the Tekin family in its quest for justice.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-28 20:00:01
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