The following questionnaire, conducted by P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, is part of a survey aimed at revealing the conditions faced by journalists in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or under a sentence. In addition to documenting the problems journalists might be facing during their time in prison, this survey is also aimed at helping improve their prison environment.
Oğuz Usluer filled out the questionnaire during a prison visit in July 2018 by P24’s lawyers.
Name: Oğuz Usluer
A former coordinator for Habertürk TV, Oğuz Usluer was arrested on 28 December 2016 on allegations that he was part of the media organization under the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” the name used by Turkish authorities for the group allegedly behind the July 2016 coup attempt. Usluer, who stood trial along with 25 other journalists, was convicted in March 2018 of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.
Prison: Silivri Prison
Detained since: 28 December 2016
In pretrial detention or under sentence: under sentence
1. Are you detained with other inmates or are you in solitary confinement? How many people do you share the prison ward/cell with?
I share a prison cell with two other inmates.
2. How many hours a day are you allowed to go out to the courtyard or prison yard?
We are allowed to go out on the prison cell’s courtyard for around 9-10 hours in winter and for 11-12 hours in summer. We are not allowed to the shared facilities.
3. Have you had any problems regarding the food served in prison? Does the food meet your health and/or dietary requirements?
There are stones in meals such as rice or lentils, the food is too oily, it is usually cold by the time it’s served, and there is no way to heat it up. Other than these, there are no problems regarding the food served here. When we want to purchase additional items from the commissary we are often told they are “out” and so we get only some of the items on our list.
4. Have you had any problems in meeting your day-to-day needs such as heating, warm water for shower/bath, laundry, cleaning, etc.?
There is a restriction on cleaning tools we are allowed. Therefore, even though we do clean our cell, it is often inadequate.
5. Do you suffer from any chronic illnesses? Do you have to take regular medication? Do you have access to a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist whenever you need? Have you had any difficulty obtaining your prescribed medicines?
The biggest difficulty is the lack of a full-time prison doctor. When we need to be taken to a doctor or the hospital, this generally happens too late. One time, I fractured my finger during exercise; it got swollen and was incredibly painful. I was only taken to the hospital five days later. Also, we are transferred to the hospital in vehicles that are in very bad condition. Handcuffs are kept on even during the doctor’s examination.
6. Have you had any problems sending/receiving letters?
During my first six months here I was imposed a restriction on written communication; I could neither send nor receive any letters. Right now there is no restriction, but some of the letters I was sent have not been delivered.
7. Have you faced any limitations concerning books, newspapers or other publications you asked for? How many books are you allowed in your prison ward/cell?
During the first six months of my detention, we were not allowed to receive books in parcels. Even now, we still cannot get any book that we want. Each of us is allowed to have 10 books in our cell. Sadly, periodicals too are part of this limitation.
8. How often can your lawyers or your immediate family visit you? Are other relatives or friends allowed to visit you?
The restriction on visitation from my lawyers was lifted by the sixth month of my detention. Right now there is no limit on that. My immediate family visits once a week. Contact visitation is allowed every two months. Because of state of emergency restrictions I haven’t been able to see my relatives or my friends.
9. Have you been visited by a member of the parliament? If yes, could you please name those who came to your visit?
Atilla Sertel visited me twice.
Representatives from the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) also visited me once.
10. Have you faced any problems preparing your defense statement? Do you have access to a computer, to the library, and to your case file while working on your defense statement?
Not having Internet access is a major problem. Since we are only allowed to use the computers here for two hours every week, it was insufficient. I was not even allowed to bring a newspaper clipping to the courtroom to use as part of my defense statement. [I faced] a lot of restrictions and difficulties in preparing [my] defense statement.
11. Have you been subject to ill-treatment or any physical or verbal harassment? If so, have you filed a complaint, and if yes, what happened following your complaint?
The prison’s barber forcibly cut my hair (on grounds that it did not conform with prison policy). Former CHP MP Barış Yarkadaş brought this act of bullying to the public’s attention. I also filed a complaint with the Silivri Prosecutor’s Office.
12. Have your demands in your petitions been met? Which of your requests have or have not been met?
I was not allowed to take the postgraduate education entrance exam (ALES) on grounds of the state of emergency, even though I had filed a petition beforehand.
13. Please name any other problems/demands/shortcomings not mentioned above.
The most important issue is the inadequacy in healthcare services. And then there are other matters that can never be put into words…