Witness protection shields 273 in Turkey
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Around 145 of those people have been moved to various undisclosed locations on their request, 109 have received new identities while 12 have changed their appearance. REUTERS PhotoClose to 300 people are now living under Turkey’s witness protection program following procedures such as facial surgery or after having been furnished with new identities, according to the country’s police.
The Police Department has been providing protection to 273 people, including witnesses and their relatives, since the enactment of the “Witness Protection Law” in 2008, although the program is expected to be expanded with assistance from the European Union.
While only seven people were protected under the program in 2008, the number of people that have benefitted from the law jumped to 87 in 2012, according to police data. Some 27 people have been given protection thanks to the law since the beginning of this year, the data said.
According to the law, criminal court witnesses and crime victims heard as witnesses, including the fiancés, spouses (even when divorced), lineal kin, or secondary kin have access to the protection measures.
Around 145 of those people have been moved to various undisclosed locations on their request, 109 have received new identities while 12 have changed their appearance.
Almost half of the witnesses and their relatives receive financial aid from the department, as well as education and career assistance.
Meanwhile, after the protection of suspects’ identity stirred doubts about trustworthiness, particularly during highly publicized coup cases such as “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) and Ergenekon, the government has stepped in to amend controversial aspects of the system.
The interior and justice ministries will seek to improve the system by harmonizing it with the German equivalent, as part of the EU Twinning Projects, with relevant studies having already been launched by the ministries.
Within the framework of the 1 million-euro Twinning Project, German experts working for the secret witness program in their country will train their Turkish counterparts from the Police Department, Gendarmerie forces and the Justice Ministry.