Police officers who beat schizophrenic patient to death go unpunished

Police officers who beat schizophrenic patient to death go unpunished

İsmail Saymaz ISTANBUL / Radikal
Police officers who beat schizophrenic patient to death go unpunished

Representatives of the Human Rights in Mental Health Initiative (RUSİHAK) says police abuses against mental patients are common.

Four police officers accused of beating a schizophrenic patient to death in the western province of Tekirdağ have not been subject to any disciplinary or judicial action for over 11 months.

Ali Çelebi died due to wounds he sustained after being beaten by police officers while resisting being placed in an asylum on Aug. 4, 2013.

The investigation launched after his death has been stalled at the prosecutor’s office, and the files in the investigation are also based on the incident report prepared by the suspected officers themselves.

Father-of-two Çelebi, 34, was receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Istanbul when doctors decided to place him in an asylum following the further deterioration of his mental health last year.

However, Çelebi jumped out of the ambulance outside Tekirdağ’s Çerkezköy district before taking shelter on the roof of a house, prompting the medical workers to call the police.

The officers were able to convince Çelebi to come down from the roof after the afternoon call to prayer, telling him he could pray inside the vehicle. However, according to the account of Çelebi’s brother-in-law, police sprayed tear gas in his face after he came down. Çelebi then hit one of the officers and tried to escape again, but the officers caught him and hit him with batons on his head in front of his family. Although he tried to escape once again, Çelebi was grabbed and received a tranquilizer injection.

“Three or four officers were hitting his head. We told them not to, and that he was a schizophrenia patient. Once on the floor, he told me that he was unable to breathe,” said Fatma Yıldız, the victim’s sister.

Çelebi passed away a few hours after he was taken to the local hospital.

In the incident report, police defended their actions and claimed that Çelebi hit his head on a car.
The summary of proceedings prepared by the Çerkezköy police department presented the three medical workers as “suspects,” while describing the officers as “witnesses.”

Lawyer Özlem Özkan from the Human Rights in Mental Health Initiative (RUSİHAK) said many abuses were committed against mental patients, treated with indifference by the authorities.

“There is an incredible indifference about their legal rights. In this case, even a year later [there is no progress] regarding his death. The police usually seek to neutralize patients before they are taken to hospital. There is no informing of the patient, no a human intervention,” Özkan said.

A recent report from RUSİHAK revealed that abuse was widespread in Turkish mental institutions, including cases of patients being left in isolation for days or being tied to their beds.