Demonstrators: Answer questions about Turk’s suspicious death

January 17, 2012, Tuesday/ 16:43:00/ ALYSON NEEL

Demonstrators will demand transparency and the release of all pertinent documents today in front of a Swedish police station in connection with the case of a Turkish immigrant who allegedly committed suicide while being detained there last July.

According to police reports, Sercan Budakçı was found unconscious in his detention cell on July 9 after having hanged himself with a bed sheet while being held at the Handen police station in Haninge. He later died at a hospital. Budakçı was reportedly arrested for having splashed water on a bus driver during a dispute.

Budakçı's mother and sister told Today's Zaman they believe the police are covering up much of what happened that day last summer.

Mattias Bernhardsson, a civil attorney for the Budakçı family and city counselor for the Socialist Justice Party in Haninge, opened an investigation into the case back in July. He led a public meeting in Haninge to share information on the case on Jan. 15. More than 100 people attended to hear what he had to say.

Bernhardsson, who told Today's Zaman on Monday he was pleased with the turnout, said the group had decided to hold a demonstration Wednesday to protest the police's lack of transparency and demand they make all pertinent documentation accessible to the Budakçı family.

The police were invited to the meeting but did not respond, Bernhardsson said.

Selda Budakçı told Today's Zaman that the meeting, which heard Bernhardsson rehash the arrest and death of her brother, was very difficult for her and her mother. “It was very sad. It was hard to hear my brother's words and what they [the police] did all over again. We cried a lot,” she said.

“Many people were angry. Others were sad,” she said. Both Selda Budakçı and Bernhardsson said others brought up stories of Swedish police brutality at the meeting.

“The group decided to have a demonstration on Wednesday at the police station and then another demonstration two weeks later,” he said on Monday.

Budakçı's family has not applied for a permit, so the demonstrators will technically be meeting illegally. Selda Budakçı said it is the police who must approve demonstration permits, so it is obvious why they did not apply. “If we went to the police to have our demonstration in front of a police station approved, they would of course deny it.”

'Questions must be answered'

Budakçı's family, Bernhardsson and the meeting group have questions they want answered, Bernhardsson said.

“We will ask the police to answer the following questions. What is being done to increase the safety in the lock-up? And who inflicted the injuries that were found on Sercan [Budakçı]?” he said.

Police reports indicate “no visible injuries” were found on Budakçı's body, but Bernhardsson stated the Board of Forensic Medicine's report and photographs from the forensic autopsy say otherwise. According to the external examination, there was swelling and a three-centimeter abrasion on the crown of Budakçı's head and bruises and abrasions near his left eye and on one of his legs.

“We will also demand the family be entitled to read the complaint Sercan made against the bus driver and to read the statement of the bus driver,” Bernhardsson said before the demonstration. Both the family and Bernhardsson have said the police, who conducted a four-day internal investigation before concluding no one was at fault, have not cooperated in their search for the truth as to what happened last July.

Selda Budakçı says that if the police do not respond, they will not back down. “If the police do not listen to us, we will just have a bigger demonstration until someone does,” she said.

All major media outlets have been contacted. And two more important figures have said they plan to join.

Journalist and writer Kurdo Baksı, one of the most prominent Kurdish intellectuals in Sweden, contacted Bernhardsson on Tuesday to say he would attend the demonstration. Baksı, who emigrated from Turkey to Sweden in 1980, is the winner of 13 international awards and is a prolific writer on immigration and immigration policy. He is a regular contributor to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Murat Kuseyri, chairman of the Swedish-Turkish Solidarity and Cultural Association in Stockholm (Svensk-Turkisk Solidaritet och Kulturföreningen i Stockholm), was also expected to participate in the demonstration.

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