ANKARA, Turkey, (AP) – In a rare gesture, Turkey’s justice minister apologized Tuesday to the family of an inmate who was allegedly beaten to death in Istanbul and said 19 prison workers have been suspended in connection with the killing.
Human rights groups said 29-year-old Engin Ceber was protesting police brutality when he was taken into custody, severely beaten by officers and later beaten again in jail. He died Saturday in a hospital from a brain hemorrhage.
“I am apologizing to his family and relatives on behalf of my government and the state,” Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said. “It has been decided to suspend 19 prison personnel who might have responsibilities in his death.”
Sahin said an investigation determined that Ceber had suffered “ill treatment” by personnel at Istanbul’s Metris Prison. He said those responsible would be punished.
Ceber was also allegedly beaten by police officers before being transferred to Metris. The Interior Ministry launched a separate investigation Tuesday into that allegation.
Ceber was detained last month while protesting that police officers have not been brought to justice for allegedly shooting and paralyzing a youth selling a left-wing publication last year.
Allegations of torture by security forces have long stained Turkey’s human rights record. Turkey has announced a “zero-tolerance” policy against torture, but human rights groups say offenders often remain unpunished.