10:06, April 05 416 0 theguardian.com

2017-04-05 10:06:03
Briton escapes Turkey extradition after court hears of previous prison torture

A British man has escaped extradition to Turkey after the high court heard he had been repeatedly beaten, tortured, forced to convert to Islam and made to clean the floor with a toothbrush when last held in a Turkish jail.

Two senior judges in London on Tuesday allowed an application by Rosslee Charles after hearing that assurances offered by the Turkish government about the special unit in which he was due to serve his sentence proved, according to his lawyer, to be wholly unworkable.

Charles, who is gay and denied the charge, was convicted, in his absence, by a Turkish court in 2006 of raping a man. He had been held for six months in prison and returned to the UK before the trial because he feared for his safety if he remained in Turkey.

The high court decision by Lord Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Garnham follows a series of recent refusals in the UK and elsewhere to send suspects for trial in Turkey because of growing international concern over the state of criminal justice due to official crackdowns after the 2016 failed coup.

Charles, according to findings made by a senior district judge at an earlier extradition hearing, had been assaulted by Turkish guards and prisoners when in jail between August 2004 and January 2005.

He was forced to clean the floor with a toothbrush while being kicked and punched and called “gay, homo, girl”, the court was informed. He was given contaminated food, his hands and knees were burnt by cleaning materials, and he was forced to sleep in a toilet for three months.

At one stage, according to written submissions to the court, Charles was “forcibly converted to Islam and beaten when he made mistakes in the Arabic text that he was forced to read out loud. He received quite significant injuries – two black eyes – and bruising to his shoulder, knees and face. He was deemed no longer dirty after the forced conversion.”

Ben Cooper, counsel for Charles, said that extraditing him to Turkey would expose him to a real risk of further inhuman and degrading treatment and that it would be unjust or oppressive because of his mental condition.

A lower court had agreed to his extradition on the basis of assurances given by the Turkish government that Charles would only ever be held in a specific wing of Maltepe Prison No 2, in Istanbul which was said to house LGBT inmates.

An influx of new prisoners into Turkey’s jails after government mass arrests of suspects supposedly associated with the failed coup in 2016 had, however, disrupted the promised arrangements in Maltepe prison.

Ben Cooper, who represented Charles, told the court that Charles would need close monitoring for his own safety but that there was a lack of staff in the prison. “There’s a cultural hostility to homosexuals that you find in Turkish prisons,” Cooper said. “There’s no precise instructions to replace the assurances originally given. The regime falls within the definition of solitary confinement.”

The Turkish government says that Charles is required to serve a seven-year sentence for his conviction of homosexual rape. Charles’s time served on remand has been taken into account.

Saoirse Townshend, who represented the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “I have to accept that the assurances given have changed.” But Turkey, she added, denied that Charles would be subject to torture or inhumane treatment. He would be able to move freely between his cell and a dayroom where there is a television. He would also be allowed to go to the exercise yard.

Charles’s solicitor, Karen Todner, said after the decision: “I’m delighted the high court ruled in Mr Charles’s favour. Judgment is still reserved so we do not yet know the basis for the decision but they have indicated that the appeal is allowed. Clearly if Mr Charles had been extradited there was a real possibility that his human rights would have been breached.”

Both judges allowed the appeal. They are due to give their reasons at a later date.