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Kurdish rebel claims Turks tortured him

WHEN CEVAT SOYSAL, the latest Kurdish rebel to be snatched by Turkish security forces under mysterious circumstances, made his first public appearance last week, he looked seriously unwell. His two guards were almost carrying him as he stumbled into court to be charged, pale and exhausted.

At the time the Turkish authorities explained that Mr Soysal was suffering from hepatitis and diabetes. But now his lawyer is claiming he has been systematically tortured since his capture. "He told me that the first two days of his detention they didn't even ask him any questions," says Ahmet Avsar. "They just tortured him." Mr Avsar claims his client has been stripped and sprayed with freezing water, hung by his armpits, kept blindfolded and injected with drugs.

Mr Avsar concedes the rebel was sick before he was captured, but claims he had undergone recent treatment and was in good condition. Allegations of abuse are nothing new in a country where even senior ministers concede there is a serious torture problem.

Yet it would be surprising if Turkey has played into its opponents' hands by torturing so high-profile a prisoner as Mr Soysal. When Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader now under sentence of death, was abducted from Kenya by Turkish security forces in February, there were widespread fears he would be tortured. But to date, there is no evidence of this.