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Book on "Return to Life" operation banned in prisons

(BIANET/IFEX) - 23 February 2011 - The book "The Return to Life Operation, from the Ward to the Cell" has been banned in certain prisons because it "might encourage convicts to undertake death fasts."

The book, written by lawyer Guclu Sevimli, has not been allowed in the Sincan No. 1 F Type Prison in Ankara and the Kiriklar No. 1 F Type Prison in Izmir. The book deals with the highly controversial "Return to Life" police operation and the transition period at Turkish F type prisons. It was banned in both prisons because it conveys "a bad image of prisons with (smaller) cells".

The "Return to Life" operation was carried out in December 2000 in Istanbul. The police violently ended the "death fasts" of hundreds of political prisoners who had protested against a transfer from large wards to F type cells with only three or four prisoners.

BIANET talked to Sevimli, the author of the book. He indicated that, while the book was banned in the two aforementioned prisons, it was allowed in the Kiriklar No. 2 F Type Prison. Sevimli explained that the book had not been accepted in the other prisons because it allegedly "showed a 'negative' image of F type prisons and encouraged the convicts to undertake death fasts and similar types of actions."

Sevimli said the book had also been banned from the Edirne F Type Prison for a long time, but its distribution to detainees and convicts was eventually permitted. The book is not subject to a seizure or any other judicial or administrative investigation or trial procedure.


A 2010 report issued by the Prison Monitoring Commission of the Contemporary Lawyers Association's (CHD) Istanbul Branch revealed that inmates at F type prisons are deprived of the rights guaranteed to them by law. The report was based on conversations between 25 lawyers and 70 detainees and convicts in F type prisons, who were being held under High Security Prison conditions.

The study showed that newspapers, magazines and books are forbidden in prisons in an arbitrary manner. According to the law, only the prosecution can decide on print media in prisons. They are to be allowed unless they are subject to a ban or a seizure decision.

In "The Return to Life Operation, from the Ward to the Cell", Sevimli wrote about the development of the so-called "Counter-Insurgency Law", which has been in force since the 1950s. The book detailed how the law gained dominance and the position of the F type prisons within this structure and process.

Twenty-eight detainees and inmates died in the course of the "Return to Life Operation" on 19-22 December 2000. Together with the people who died in subsequent hunger strikes, a total of 122 people lost their lives. In addition, more than 600 people remain handicapped as a result of the actions. Lawyer Behic Asci says in the preface of the book, "This is not a matter of conscience for us. It is a need for our sense of justice, our desire for independence and democracy, our struggle and for the price we paid."

At the Bayrampasa Prison in Istanbul, a total of twelve people died. Six of them were women, five of whom burned to death. The related trial was opened ten years later. The second hearing is set for 6 April 2011.

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