Nigerian migrant dies at police station while in custody

January 31, 2013, Thursday/ 17:12:00

A Nigerian immigrant who came to Turkey in 2011 died after he was allegedly denied medical assistance by İstanbul police, after he was severely beaten by five Turkish youths in the middle of an İstanbul street.

Nigeria's English-language newspaper Vanguard claimed that the victim, Courage Aigbedion, formerly an employee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), came to Turkey to find work in 2011, but he was detained on Oct. 17, 2011, after he was violently attacked by a group of five young men. The police did not allow him access to medical care, Presley Aigbedion, the victim's brother, was quoted as saying by Vanguard. “I was in the UK when the incident happened. On receiving the news of his death, we had to send my elder brother, who is based in Germany, to visit Turkey in respect of the matter,” he said.

The brother who went to Turkey made “some useful findings,” according to Presley Aigbedion, who said the discoveries led the family to believe that their brother was beaten into a coma by five Turkish youths on his way home from work. He was subsequently arrested by Turkish police and was kept in custody without medical attention. He said a co-worker and a flatmate confirmed the story.

However, the İstanbul Police Department has denied the story. According to the police, Courage Aigbedion, who resided in Zeytinburnu in 2011, officially filed for asylum when he was out of work and ran out of money in İstanbul. He was then placed at the Kumkapı Refugee Center. After about two weeks at the center, he got sick with violent coughing bouts. He was taken to the Haseki Hospital where he was diagnosed as HIV positive. Soon afterwards, he died of an HIV-related complication. The police say Courage Aigbedion was never detained or had any legal charges against him.

However, Vanguard claimed that the immigrant's flatmate had seen him being brought to the apartment at about 2:00 a.m. by the police on the day of his alleged detention. He said the police asked for the man's documents, and at that point the flatmate noticed that his friend was bleeding profusely. He said Courage was struggling to explain to the officers that he had been attacked by five Turkish boys at about 8:00 p.m.

A Nigerian Embassy official accompanied the visiting brother later in Turkey where, according to Vanguard's story, officials did not present any documentation citing the charges directed at Courage.

If indeed he was a victim of police negligence, Courage Aigbedion would not be the first Nigerian in İstanbul who died at the hands of the police. In August 2007, Festus Okey of Nigeria was shot dead by police officer Cengiz Yıldız in a detention center without any cameras. Yıldız was given only four years, two months in jail, causing outrage among human rights groups. However, an appeals process is under way, and on Jan. 13 the prosecutor's office of the Supreme Court of Appeals submitted its opinion that the verdict in Yıldız's case should be overturned and that the officer should be retried and dealt a 20-year prison sentence.

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