Garibe Gezer, a 28-year-old former local executive in the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), has been found dead in prison after previously reporting sexual abuse by her guards, lawyer Eren Keskin said on social media on Thursday.
Gezer’s sister, Asya Gezer, told Mezopotamya news agency that she suspected foul play involving administrators of the prison, where many high-profile Kurdish politicians are held.
“She told us that the pressure on her had eased, and that her morale was high. But she still had 20 counts of solitary confinement penalties to complete,” Asya Gezer said. “I was going to visit her in January. She was happy about that.”
A manager from the prison called the family earlier in the day to inform them of the incident. “I did not believe him, and I protested. He also told us that the body had been taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK),” Gezer’s sister said.
Gezer’s lawyers were not allowed to see her body before it was moved, and the autopsy at the ATK was completed before they could get to the institute, veteran human rights lawyer Keskin said.
Gezer had previously attempted suicide in October “in protest of torture she endured in a padded cell in the prison”, Keskin added.
Veysi Eski, another lawyer representing the young woman, said they would be filing a criminal complaint against the prison authorities.
Gezer was given an aggregated life sentence and 21 years in jail after being convicted of terrorism charges in 2016. Evidence against her included the fact that she had not left her hometown of Dargeçit, Mardin after a curfew was declared during anti-terrorism operations in several provinces in 2015, according to Mezopotamya.
Her brother, Bilal Gezer, was killed in 2014 during the Oct. 6 to 8 incidents, which saw demonstrators take to the streets across Turkey as the Islamic State (ISIS) laid siege to the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani. Another brother, Mehmet Emin Gezer, was paralysed after being shot by special operations police units as he sought to ascertain Bilal’s fate.
Garibe Gezer joined the DBP following the incidents and the subsequent detention of the rest of her family, Mezopotamya said.
Jiyan Tosun, one of Gezer’s lawyers, spoke to Kurdish news website Jin News in October and detailed the young woman’s plight.
According to Tosun, Gezer had been transferred to the Kandıra prison from another facility in eastern Kayseri province, much closer to where her family lived. During the transfer, she was dragged on the ground.
In Kandıra prison, Gezer was placed in solitary confinement for 22 days. When she protested at not being placed in a standard three-person cell, she was taken to a padded cell where she was tortured and sexually assaulted by prison guards, Tosun said.
After telling her family about the abuse, Gezer was given a further five days in solitary confinement. She was given an additional 11 days for ripping up a piece of foam from the padded cell.
The padded cell was under constant video surveillance, and prisoners would have to use the bathrooms in front of cameras, Tosun said. According to the lawyer, the cell smelled of urine and faeces.
Gezer attempted suicide following several stays in the padded cell, her lawyers said. After the attempt, she was left on the floor of her cell for hours. When eventually taken to the infirmary, a head wound she had suffered was not dressed by the doctor in attendance. Gezer was then placed alone in a cell again with no psychological evaluation or oversight.
Gezer’s lawyers pressed charges against the prison administration in September, and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies raised her case in parliament.
Her lawyers told Mezopotamya that a preliminary report had found no apparent cause of death.
Neither her family nor lawyers have yet been informed of further details, the news agency said.