|Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said on Tuesday 19 prison personnel have been suspended amid allegations that a leftist activist, Engin Ceber, was tortured to death in custody and apologized for his ill-treatment. (UPDATED)
Sahin told reporters in Ankara that an investigation into Cebers death last week has determined he suffered "ill treatment" by personnel at Istanbuls Metris Prison.
"I apologize to the relatives of (Ceber) on behalf of my government and the state," Sahin said, adding those responsible would be punished. Such an apology was the first of its kind made in Turkey.
Torture and maltreatment by the countrys security forces have once again came under the spotlight in Turkey after the death of Ceber, despite the government's pledge to "zero tolerance of torture".
Human rights groups say 29-year-old Ceber was severely beaten by officers while in custody. He died in a hospital from a brain hemorrhage on Saturday.
MORE SUSPENSIONS COULD COME
Ceber was detained last month while protesting that police officers have not been brought to justice for allegedly shooting and paralyzing a youth selling a left-wing publication last year.
I am pushing this ahead with a high sensitivity, the number (of suspensions) could rise as the investigation widens. I am very sorry that such an incident was allowed to happen in Turkey at such a time, Sahin said.
The Turkish government has been working hard to improve the countrys human rights record, a highly sensitive issue in relations with the European Union. The government says it pursues a policy zero tolerance to torture.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies brought the issue to the parliaments agenda and called for the resignation of Interior Minister Besir Atalay.