Kurd Protests: Turkey is accused of electric shock torture

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KURDS ARE being systematically subjected to electric shock treatments and other sophisticated tortures by the Turkish government, according to a damning new report.

Men and women are being suspended naked from the ceiling, hosed with cold water, and beaten on the soles of their feet, the two-year study reveals.

The shocking findings, by the British-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, will intensify the protests by Kurdish demonstrators which have taken place this week across the world. Kurds have occupied a dozen embassies and missions in protest at the arrest of the fugitive Kurdish guerrilla leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

The Independent has learnt that the Medical Foundation report, to be published next month, is based on a study of 78 Turkish patients who were examined at the Foundation's London headquarters between January 1997 and March 1998. All but two of the patients were of Kurdish origin.

Last night a source at the Foundation said: "Clients have said that when they were tortured it was done in a sophisticated fashion. Those carrying out the practices were clearly aware of how far they could go and when they should stop for fear of causing death."

Of the 70 male and eight female patients studied by the Foundation for the report on Turkey, only 15 were charged with an offence and only three convicted. Most had political affiliations. All had fled to Britain as refugees.

Sirwan, 27, who is from a Kurdish village in eastern Turkey, was arrested after taking part in a pro-democracy May Day march in Istanbul in 1996. She said that she was taken to a police station, blindfolded, stripped and beaten when she refused to give names of other demonstrators.

Sirwan said her arms were tied with rope and she was suspended from the ceiling in what is called a "Palestinian hanging".

"While I was suspended they applied wires to my left foot and fingers and gave me electric shocks," she said. "Then they put wires on my breasts and on my genitals and threw cold water on my body to make the electric shock treatment more effective." She said a doctor had been present during the torture to ensure she was kept alive.

Now living in London, Sirwan said: "I was released by the courts after 14 days and I knew I could never look at the world with the same eyes again."

Mr Ocalan, who was wanted by Turkey as a traitor and a terrorist who had played a major role in a civil war that has claimed 29,000 lives, was captured in Nairobi and brought back to Turkey earlier this week.

The Foundation source said: "Clearly the concern must be that the treatment meted out in general to the Kurds will only be intensified in the case of Mr Ocalan."

Turkey's continued use of torture has attracted criticism from the United Nations Committee against Torture and the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

In response, the Turkish government has ordered compliance with regulations that forbid the use of torture and has set up human rights training courses for security personnel. A human rights minister has also been appointed.