Torture: Amnesty International says that the practice is more widespread than ever. It targets five regimes in its latest report

'They tortured me, invited me to tea'; A VICTIM'S TALE
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A Turkish torture victim, Ali Ekber Kaya, did not know he was about to feature in the latest campaign by Amnesty International, writes Hugh Pope.

From eastern Turkey, he said it was likely to be a mixed blessing. "Once the police said to me: 'If we knew you had this many foreign friends, we'd have simply got rid of you.' So I'm naturally a bit worried ... But one thing is for sure. If it hadn't been for Amnesty International ... I would not be living now."

Mr Kaya lives in Tunceli, which means "Bronze Hand", a name bestowed on the town of Dersim by the Turkish authorities after a Kurdish uprising was crushed there in 1938. The town is still plagued with ethnic-religious strife and killings.

"I'm both Kurdish and an Alevi, so I'm for the chop on both counts," Mr Kaya said. Alevis are heterodox Shia Muslims, often in conflict with the Sunni majority. He was first arrested in 1994 and tortured on suspicion of belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party before being acquitted. He was rearrested in March 1995 and tortured for a confession that he was in the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.

Amnesty said he was hosed down, had two ribs broken, was not allowed to sleep and was hung from the ceiling to be given electric shocks through his fingers and genitals. "The police think they are protecting their country, that they are protecting Islam. When the muezzin starts, they even stop for prayers," said Mr Kaya, who could still laugh at the absurdity of some of his experiences.

The group of 17 suspects was brought to court, where all but two were acquitted. A woman prosecutor had pity on them, shocked at their state but the police rearrested him and imprisoned him for two more months, although he was not harmed any more.

But release from jail did not free him from his torturers, who visited him at work in the municipality, once even asking him to call for tea. Mr Kaya, who has since brought a case against the police, said he believed their goal was to close the local branch of the Human Rights Association in the town.

"They have succeeded. They have confiscated everything," Mr Kaya said. "They even asked me what I though of the fact that they had tortured me. I said: 'What would you think if I had done that to you?' That kept them quiet for a while."