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Turkey detainees tortured, raped after failed coup, rights group says

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Pro-Erdogan supporters gesture and hold Tukish flags during a rally against the military coup on Taksim square in Istanbul on July 23, 2016. Turkey pushed on with a sweeping crackdown against suspected plotters of its failed coup, defiantly telling EU critics it had no choice but to root out hidden enemies. Using new emergency powers, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's cabinet decreed that police could now hold suspects for one month without charge, and also announced it would shut down over 1,000 private schools it deems subversive. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL (CNN) — As a human rights group tells it, this is what witnesses say is happening to some of the thousands arrested after this month’s failed coup in Turkey: captured military officers being raped by police; hundreds of detained soldiers beaten; some withheld food, water and access to lawyers for days.

Detainees awaiting trial have been beaten and tortured in official and unofficial holding centers in Istanbul and Ankara following the July 15 coup attempt by parts of Turkey’s military, Amnesty International reported this week.

The group cites interviews with detainees’ lawyers, doctors and a person who was on duty at one of the centers in Ankara.

“The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said in a statement Sunday.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag denied the allegations, accusing Amnesty’s sources of lying and being part of the movement behind the coup attempt.

More than 10,000 people have been detained, Amnesty International said. More than 9,000 were soldiers, though 1,200 troops have been released, the government said.

Here’s a look at some of the allegations, according to Amnesty International:

Rapes and beatings

• Many detainees are being kept in informal holding centers, such as a sports hall at the Ankara police headquarters and some riding club stables in the city.

• Detainees say they saw police officers raping senior military officers with batons or fingers, according to two lawyers in Ankara.

• A person who’d been on duty at the Ankara police headquarters claimed to have seen a severely beaten detainee who lost consciousness with large swelling on his head. Police allegedly denied that detainee medical treatment. “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead,” the witness quoted a police doctor as saying.

• Up to 800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall, a source there said, and at least 300 showed signs of having been beaten, with bruises, cuts or broken bones, the source said. About 40 could not walk, and a woman detained separately from men had bruising on her face and torso, the source said.

• Detainees were brought before prosecutors for interrogation with their shirts covered in blood, lawyers said.

Stress positions and food deprivation

• Many detainees were handcuffed behind their backs with plastic zip ties and forced to kneel for hours, the interviewees said.

• Detainees alleged that police deprived them of food for up to three days and water for up to two days, according to the interviewees.

‘Grave violations of a right to a fair trial’

• More than 10 lawyers were interviewed, saying most of their clients were held for at least four days before being charged. In most cases, the detainees had been held without ability to talk to relatives or the attorneys before their hearings.

• In most cases, neither the clients nor their attorneys were informed of specific charges, the lawyers said.

• “These are grave violations of the right to a fair trial which is enshrined in both Turkey’s national law and international law,” Dalhuisen said.

• “In the vast majority of cases, (lawyers) said that no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior was presented against their clients during the charge hearings … (and) lawyers explained that judges ordered detained soldiers to be placed in pretrial detention if they left their barracks the evening of the coup, regardless of the reason,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

Call for independent monitors

Amnesty International said it wanted the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to send people to check on detainees’ conditions.

Bozdag, the Turkish justice minister, said that “no individual was tortured or mistreated during or after their detention.”

“Accusations of torture and ill-treatment are unfounded,” he said, blaming them on supporters of cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the upheaval.

Gulen, a longtime rival of Erdogan’s who denies involvement in the coup attempt, lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.

The roundup of suspected coup plotters is not the only government response to the uprising.

Under a new presidential decree following the attempted coup, suspects can be detained for as long as 30 days without charge, and the government can listen in on all conversations they have with their attorneys.

A three-month state of emergency declaration issued Thursday grants Erdogan new sweeping powers to implement the detention measures.

Besides the arrests, Turkey’s government has launched a sweeping purge of institutions and individuals suspected of having ties to Gulen.

Authorities have fired or suspended at least 50,000 people from various institutions, including judges, teachers, soldiers, police and journalists. Even the state-run Turkish Airlines has not been exempt from the crackdown, with the company announcing Monday that 211 employment contracts had been terminated.

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists, state-run news agency Anadolu reported Monday.

Reporters Without Borders has slammed the Turkish government’s treatment of journalists following the political upheaval.

Johann Bihr, the head of the organization’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said that democracy “cannot be protected by trampling on fundamental freedoms.”

“The wholesale and arbitrary nature of the attacks on the Turkish media in the past week seems to reflect a desire to exact revenge and bring them into line. It is time the authorities put a stop to this,” Bihr said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 151st out of 180 countries for press freedom.