Pictures show mobsters living high life in Turkish prisons

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Sat Nov 11 23:41:58 MST 2000

Pictures show mobsters living high life in Turkish prisons

 By SUZAN FRASER The Associated Press 11/11/00 2:59 PM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- The photo said it all: gang members posing on a
canopy-bed surrounded by carpets, talking on their cellular phones from
inside a high-security prison.

The newspaper that published the photo, Hurriyet, said the bed looked
like "the throne of Arab princes" and it shocked people even in a
country where prisoners routinely run their wards and occasionally use
smuggled phones to coordinate riots or hostage takings.

Not only did gang leader Nuri Ergin and his brother Vedat live in
princely comfort, but according to Hurriyet the two had been running the
prison for weeks, beating and torturing inmates. It said the brothers
demanded money from prisoners' relatives and took gold wedding rings
from inmates.

The picture was found by police searching Usak prison in western Turkey
following riots last week in which inmates loyal to Nuri Ergin took 28
hostages, beat and tortured eight inmates and threw three of them out of
a prison window. Five inmates were killed and a dozen prisoners and
officials were injured.

The scandal comes as the European Union is demanding that Turkey improve
conditions in prisons. Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk has
vowed the government will regain control of prisons, where officials say
inmates imprisoned for petty crimes are often recruited into gangs.

"Had it been in another democratic country, the justice minister would
have resigned," commentator Can Atakli wrote in the Sabah newspaper.

Among other measures to deal with the problem, the government is
considering an amnesty bill that would cut down the prison population
and is building a dozen new maximum-security penitentiaries.

The new prisons would move prisoners out of large wards housing up to
100 prisoners into one- or three-person cells. Relatives of prisoners,
however, say they fear that the smaller cells will leave prisoners more
vulnerable to abuse by guards.

On Friday, the government suspended the head of Usak prison and six
other officials following the publication of a different photograph in
the Milliyet newspaper which showed the Ergin brothers posing behind the
prison director's desk. Authorities were investigating whether the
prison director himself took the picture, the newspaper reported.

They are also investigating how Nuri Ergin's teen-age son, who appeared
in one of the photos, managed to get into the prison.

Reports said Nuri Ergin had keys to most of the wards and would freely
move from one bloc to the other. One inmate told Hurriyet how wardens
watched as a gun fell out of Vedat Ergin's jacket.

Nuri Ergin, who is in prison pending trial on charges of kidnapping,
beating and extortion, claims the men slain in last week's rioting were
members of a rival gang that had entered the prison to kill him. Gang
members have been battling each other both inside and outside of

Nuri Ergin's main rival, mobster Alaatin Cakici, is reportedly leading a
similar life in an Istanbul prison. Cakici's alleged ties to politicians
reportedly helped bring down a government.

Cakici, who is serving a five-year sentence for leading an armed gang,
reportedly has restaurants deliver to his prison cell and returns the
food if it is not to his liking.

Nuri Ergin and his brother have now been transferred to separate
prisons. Turk said until the new prisons are built, the two will be
transferred frequently to prevent them from establishing rule at one

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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