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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Turkey jails trans activists for 'insulting police'

By Paul Canning

Three transgender activists in Turkey were sentenced to prison yesterday, 25 October for 'resisting the police'.

The three are the founders of the Ankara-based transgender rights organization Pembe Hayat ("Pink Life"). One, Naz Gudumen, was sentenced to 1 year for "insulting the police" and 6 months for "resisting the police".

Kemal Ordek, Secretary General of Pembe Hayat said:

"We are shocked of the court rulings!.. The justice is not justice in Turkey for trans individuals; and especially for trans human rights defenders!"

Human Rights Watch and others have long been campaigning for all charges to be dropped.

Four police officers from the Esat Police Station in Ankara stopped the car in which the activists were riding at about 10:30 p.m. on May 17 2010 and accused them of intending to commit sex work. The women phoned for help, prompting 25 local human rights observers to go to the scene.

The police forced the activists out of the car, beat them with batons, kicked them and sprayed them with tear gas. Witnesses told the human rights organizations that the police screamed at the activists, "faggots, next time we will kill you!"

Police handcuffed the women, forced them to kneel, and beat their heads and legs while one policeman told them their activism would not protect them. All the women, visibly bruised, were forced into a police van and taken to the police station. Police held them in custody until the next morning.

Following a familiar pattern in Turkey, the five were speedily charged with resisting the police, before the prosecutor had concluded an investigation into their complaint of ill-treatment.

Lawyers for the three will now appeal the sentences.

Last month a Turkish government Minister held an historic meeting with the organisation.

In June, Amnesty International published ‘Not an illness nor a crime: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality.‘ It said:

“Transgender women in particular face the greatest barriers to entering employment and are in a great many cases forced to engage in illegal sex work.”

“Nearly every transgender woman that Amnesty International spoke to in early 2011 described being subjected to extreme violence -- including sexual violence -- by police officers in police stations in previous years.”

“The issuing of fines by police officers -- using both the Misdemeanor Law and the Traffic Law -- has become the principal method of harassing transgender women.”

Last week there was another killing of a transgender person in Turkey, this time a 'honour killing'.

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