Teoman Gökçe, the former member of HSK (1st department), was just only 49 years old. It is reported he died of a heart attack in prison. Gökçe, who was arrested unduely by Turkish judiciary acting as a tool for purging the opponents, had been held in a prison cell alone under solitary confinement for over 20 months. In Turkey where independent journalism and judiciary completely disappear, since it is impossible to learn the real reason of his death, it should be kept in mind the death of Gökçe in prison, middle-aged, healthy and known with his opponent stand against the government, is quite suspicious.
Graduating from Istanbul University Law Faculty in 1990, Teoman Gökçe started to perform the judicial task as a recruit in 1991. He served as a public prosecutor in several regions of Turkey including the terror regions. Meanwhile, he had completed his doctora in law. In 1999, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal as a rapporteur judge suffering from heavy workload. Aftermath of a busy working pace for 11 years, he became a candidate member for HSK. In HSK elections, Gökçe was elected a member getting 6068 votes of 11900 which was over 50 percent of the total. Gökçe was quite popular among his colleagues in elections. As it is, he became the second taking the most votes.
After he became a member of HSK, he kept his modesty and respect for his colleagues. The fact of experiencing the judicial power in line with the modern fundemental law principles under concerned European standards was his main principle. Following the constitutional amendment in 2010, the government increased the pressure to take over the control of the judiciary as well as the other state institutions. Gökçe had always struggled for the separation of powers, the rule of law and also the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
Reacting to the interventions of the Government to HSK via Justice Ministry, he resigned from his position of membership in the first department of HSK on June 11, 2014. In his resignation statement, emphasizing the Venice Commission criterias and also European Union and European Council norms, he declared that the ruling party harshly undermine the fundemental principles of law such as, the separation of powers, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the security of judges, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the equality before the law by means of legal amendments and actual implementations made after 17 December Bribery and Corruption investigations. The resignation of Gökçe made a tremendous impact to the public and Erdogan’s government showed a reaction to his statement.
The ruling party established the Platform of Union at Judiciary (YBP) in order that the pro-gov’t judges and prosecutors won HSK elections that would be held on October 2014 and also to take hold of the judiciary completely. Upon this development, Gökçe announced he would come up for reelections of HSK for an independent judiciary and the rule of law. The candidates of YBP had won the elections which was manipulated by the goverment in a way using the whole sources of State including the promise to increase judicial salaries. Despite all severe pressure of the government, Gökçe had managed to get 4797 votes of total however that amount was not enough for the membership. This election had become a milestone for the government to purge 5000 judges in a way of blaclisting them.
The government made 2745 judges and prosecutors detained over “attempting coup” charges based on the blacklists prepared in advance on the pretex of July 15 coup attempt. Teoman Gökçe was one of those. He was arrested and held in prison under solitary confinement for a lenghty detention period.
Some of the judges and prosecutors taking place in the blacklist of the government were battered during the detention and handcuffed behind the back. When referred to the court houses, they were subjected to verbal and actual attack of the crowd. They were reflected in media as if a vicious killer. Their assets were seized and their family were deprived of all financial possibilities and also health insurances. They were prohibited from visits, also writing letter and reading books. Their need for hot water to have a bath in prisons were not met. In cold days, the heating system and in hot days the cooling system were deactivated. They were subjected to insulting and ill-treatment of the prison employees. What’s more, some were tortured.
Judge Teoman Gökçe had spent almost 2 years in a prison (in solitary confinement) under such poor conditions. His mother and father were not able to stomach such a process which was too difficult to resist psychologically and physically. Both were died of a heart attack every other six months. After some time, like his parents, Gökçe died of a heart attack in the prison cell where he was held under solitary confinement almost for 2 years.
The rights activist Ömer Gergerlioglu criticised the hold of Gökçe and the other judges/prosecutors in a prison cell under solitary confinement for 20 months saying “According to the laws, you can not hold an arrestee in a prison under solitary confinement more than 20 days but nowadays, thousands of former judges have been being held in prison cells under such bad conditions, however nobody cares, as a result, they have began fo be mentally depressed and have a heart attack. WE DEMAND LAW” (1).
Moreover, in his article titled ‘the jailed lawyers’ written on April 8, 2018 for Cumhuriyet, the oldest secular newspaper of Turkey, Emre Kongar said “Last week two judges died, one was in prison and the other was in exile in quite different positions” and he called for the state of law, justice and democracy adressing the death of Teoman Gökçe, who was arrested over coup charges and put in prison in solitary confinement and also that of Abuzer Kara, who was labeled as “Alevi” and died of a heart attack in the province he was exiled due to this reason (2).
Several news were reported about the death of Gökçe. Particularly it was raised in social media his death was considered “suspicious” because of his opponent identity. The most important evidence feeding these suspicisions is the approach of the ruling party regarding the prisons.
The Turkish government did not allow the announcement of the report prepared by the European Committe for the Prevention of the Torture (CPT) as a result of watching the prisons in Turkey and thus, the report was not shared with public (3).
With the decree law No 673, all the members and presidents of the prison watching committees which were established for the civil supervision of the prisons were removed and pro-gov’t partisans were appointed in place of them.
In summary, the prisons in Turkey are completely closed to the civil supervision of domestic and international human rights organizations. Moreover, after mainstream Doğan media grup was also sold to an other pro-gov’t media outlet under severe pressure, the whole of the media outlets have become taken under the control of the government. According to the report of RSF, Turkey is the country in the world with the most journalists in prison. So, in such a media, reflecting the realities about the human rights violations in prisons is almost impossible.
Because of the fact that the judiciary is completely under the control of the government, the proper and effective investigation of the human rights violations in prisons allegedly within the knowledge of the government seems impossible. So, it is understood that the allegations asserted about the real reasons of the death of Gökçe as to being suspicious will continue.
It can be certainly said that judge Gökçe, jailed since July 2016, died in prison cell under solitary confinement being left deprived of the right to defense himself, what’s worse, without any hearing. His right to life and right to a fair trial were obviously violated. Indeed, the pre-trial detention of Gökçe became an exact extrajudicial execution.