Turkish transgender rights activists face trial

Published 19.10.2010 13:33

International rights groups on Monday urged Turkey to drop criminal charges against five transgender rights activists and encouraged authorities to investigate the police treatment of the case.

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ANKARA, Turkey - Police stopped the five in May, accused them being prostitutes and beat them up, according to the Ankara-based transgender rights group, Pembe Hayat, or Pink Life.

The five go on trial on Oct. 21 on charges of resisting police and face a maximum three years in prison .

Five international human rights and gay rights organizations, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a joint letter to Turkey's Interior and Justice ministers that the police officers should be held accountable. Police would not comment on the case.

The rights group called for an end to violence against transvestites and transsexuals in Turkey and asked that the government enact laws to protect gays and lesbians against discrimination.

Human rights advocates say gays and lesbians suffer frequent discrimination and abuse despite human rights reforms enacted in line with Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Many transgender people escape Turkey's conservative towns and villages for more tolerant cities like Istanbul and Ankara. But many still encounter hostility and discrimination and, unable to get jobs, turn to prostitution.

About a dozen transgender people, most of them sex workers, have been killed in Turkey over the past few years in attacks activists have described as hate crimes. They claim authorities and police remain unsympathetic and fail to adequately investigate the murders.

Police deny the accusations, insisting that most of the deaths result from disputes between the victims and their clients, and say most of the culprits are caught and prosecuted.

Buse Kilickaya, one of the five activists who goes on trial Thursday, told The Associated Press the activists refused to get out of the car when police stopped them, insisting they had "done nothing wrong."

"(Police) then sprayed the inside of the car with pepper gas and dragged us out pulling us by the hair," she said. "We were slapped and kicked and forced into a police van."

She said they were kept at a police station overnight and charged.

SUZAN FRASER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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