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Turkey Table of Contents


Incidence of Crime

The incidence of ordinary crime is considered low in comparison to rates in other Middle Eastern and some West European countries. As in many other countries with even better data-gathering capabilities, the statistics on criminal acts may be unreliable. The penal registry maintained by the Ministry of Justice offers only a partial indication of the actual extent of crime. Moreover, in much of rural Turkey acts formally considered police matters may be addressed in the local community without coming to the attention of the gendarmerie.

Official statistics indicate a doubling of prison admissions between 1984 and 1991. This increase was due almost entirely to a rapid rise in the number of persons jailed "according to special laws," meaning presumably those convicted of terrorism or illegal political activity. In numerous categories of ordinary crime, the number of prison admissions actually fell from 1984 to 1991. Nevertheless, it is generally believed that the incidence of ordinary crime has been growing because of the economic, social, and cultural stresses associated with relatively rapid urbanization and the weakening of traditional social controls among urban immigrants.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of Turkey, 1993 , the number of convicts entering prisons in 1991 was 53,912, and the number discharged was 72,885. In most years, the number of admissions and discharges is nearly equal; the higher rate of discharges in 1991 was probably a result of the release of those convicted under political clauses of the penal code repealed that year. Among the most common felonies resulting in incarceration in 1991 were crimes against property (8,360), crimes against individuals (5,879), and crimes against "public decency and family order" (2,681). The numbers of persons admitted to prison bore little relation to the number of cases brought before the various criminal courts. According to official statistics, more than 52,000 new cases were brought before the central criminal courts, 632,000 before the criminal courts of first instance, and 493,000 before the justices of the peace.

The number entering prisons under special laws rose rapidly, from 7,514 in 1985 to 32,645 in 1991. Although Turkish sources offer no explanation of the increase, the period corresponds to the spiraling Kurdish dissidence and the strict laws then in effect dealing with "thought crimes."

Narcotics Trafficking

Turkey plays a major role in the narcotics trade, primarily as a natural route for the movement of hashish from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran to destinations in Europe. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has resulted in a loss of control over drug production in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Unrest in Azerbaijan and Georgia facilitates smuggling from the Caucasus area. Turkish police maintain that the PKK is heavily involved in the heroin trade. The use of air and sea routes for narcotics transshipment through Turkey has grown as the conflict in former Yugoslavia has disrupted the traditional overland routes through the Balkans.

Turkey is an important processing point for morphine base and heroin base imported into the country. Also, the Turks traditionally have grown the opium poppy for medicinal purposes. The government effectively controls the cultivation and production of opiates, paying high prices for the crop and carefully monitoring growing areas. Local drug consumption and abuse are considered minor problems, although there are some indications that heroin and cocaine use is increasing among the more affluent segments of the population.

Nationwide there are more than 1,000 narcotics law enforcement officers. The principal law enforcement agencies concerned with narcotics are the National Police and the gendarmerie. Turkish customs agencies have lacked a professional cadre of narcotics interdiction agents, but in the mid-1990s were working toward creating such a body with United States training assistance. The coast guard has also begun playing a larger role in interdiction. In spite of Turkey's efforts, it is believed that little of the heroin passing through the country is seized because of insufficient staff to screen cargoes adequately, particularly at the key transfer point of Istanbul.

There is no evidence of widespread corruption among senior officials engaged in drug law enforcement. In some cases, however, drug investigations have been compromised by corruption at lower levels of the criminal justice system, as well as within the judicial system once traffickers have been apprehended. Because Turkey has no legislation prohibiting money laundering, it is almost impossible to track inflows of drug profits. However, the Turkish government has indicated its intention to introduce laws to deal with this practice.

Data on seizures of heroin and hashish show an upward trend in the five-year period between 1989 and 1993. Hashish seizures increased from 6.9 tons in 1989 to 28.7 tons in 1993. However, a major factor was a single seizure of more than 2.7 tons of morphine base and 13.5 tons of hashish aboard a Turkish merchant ship in January 1993.

Data as of January 1995

Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents