My colleague, on the other end of the phone, told me that he has known this police chief since the first days of his career and that he would not be involved in such crimes. In return, I suggested he read the stories published by Taraf carefully, reminding him that there were several witness accounts as well as women who gave evidence of the torture and rape they were subjected to by the police, including Police Chief Sedat Selim Ay, who is under the spotlight.
Ay was appointed as a deputy director in charge of counterterrorism at the İstanbul Police Department. He was promoted despite the fact that he has been investigated on charges of misconduct and abuse of power that included torture and rape. But, interestingly, he was not convicted.
I also told this journalist that individual impressions about the police chief in question cannot tell us much about his alleged human rights violations. This colleague apparently was not satisfied with my explanation and cited Ay's strong religiosity as proof that he would not commit such crimes. I was really upset with this journalist's reasoning -- namely, that because the police chief was a practicing Muslim, his beliefs would not allow him to commit such crimes against humanity. I responded by saying that religious beliefs do not prevent anyone from committing crimes and doing nasty things to those they are supposed to be helping.
Late last week, the National Police Department finally released a statement on the Taraf daily's critical stories concerning Ay's promotion. But the statement is far from convincing for the public over the police chief's appointment.
What is also unacceptable in Ay's case is the indifference of all the other dailies to Taraf's reports on the promotion of a police chief who has a bad record of committing serious crimes. What is worrying, too, is that there has been no statement from Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, although the National Police Department reports to his ministry. His attitude is clear proof that in Turkey there is no sense of accountability of the decision makers.
Nor is there public uproar about the promotion of a police chief who was accused of abusing his power.
At long last, a reaction to this appointment came from within the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AK Party). The majority of its members had been quiet, until Ertuğrul Günay, the minister of culture and tourism, told Taraf last Sunday that for a government that declared there would be no tolerance for torture, Ay's promotion was not appropriate.
Still, the government has not signaled it will cancel Ay's promotion, or initiate a new investigation against him.
The police in democracies also commit crimes such as torture or rape. But both the media and the public are very vocal, forcing the decision makers not to stay indifferent to unacceptable behavior by their police.
In Britain, for example, Northumbria police constable Stephen Mitchell was jailed for life in January of last year after admitting charges of rape, indecent assault and misconduct while in public office. The Guardian ran a story on June 29 this year headlined “Revealed:
the scale of sexual abuse by police officers,” recalling Mitchell's life imprisonment.
The daily stated that an internal police investigation into the scale and extent of the problem suggests sexual misconduct could be more widespread within the British police than previously believed.
Sexual predators in the police abuse their power to target as victims of crime those they are supposed to be helping, as well as female staff, the Guardian reported.
The paper also stated that police officers have been disciplined or convicted for a range of offences from rape and sexual assault to misconduct in public office relating to inappropriate sexual behavior with vulnerable women they have met on duty. Others are awaiting trial for alleged offences, although many are never charged with a criminal offence and are dealt with via internal disciplinary procedures.
There are similar cases in Turkey where many police officers are not charged with a criminal offence, as is the case with senior police officer Ay. But there are also cases in which British police officers can be convicted over serious offences. An example of this is Mitchell, who was sentenced to life. In Turkey, however, those police officers accused of torture and rape will be promoted to a higher position, as we have witnessed with Ay. There are many other police officers in Turkey who are promoted despite their past record of abusing power.