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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Turkey denies charges of torture
Torture (generic)
Turkey says it has new laws to prevent the abuse of detainees
Turkey has rejected allegations that it systemically tortures prisoners and detainees - a key issue in its bid to join the European Union.

The rebuttal came as an EU envoy visited for final checks on its human rights record ahead of a report on its eligibility for membership.

The EU report on whether the country has met the political criteria for membership talks is due in October.

A leading Turkish human rights group made the torture allegations.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said he wished to stress there was no "systematic torture or other mistreatment of prisoners" in his country.

The government had a "zero-tolerance" approach to such behaviour, he said.

'Revolutionary changes'

Mr Aksu said the group behind the allegations, the independent Human Rights Association (IHD), had "failed to grasp revolutionary changes" in the way the country approached human rights.

We want to have a very precise evaluation of the exact situation on human rights
Jean-Christophe Filori
EU spokesperson

Earlier, the IHD said security forces had reacted to new laws by simply switching to torture methods which leave no trace, such as sleep or food deprivation instead of electric shocks or beatings.

Turkey has introduced a series of sweeping changes to the country's 78-year-old penal code, intended to bring Turkish laws closer to those of European Union member states.

Torture will be abolished and individual liberties expanded as part of the changes.

A clause proposing to outlaw adultery - added at the last-minute to the package of changes - was hastily dropped when the government realised it would damage the EU bid.

EU inspection

The EU has confirmed that an envoy is visiting Turkey for a final inspection of its commitment to end torture.

"We're going ahead with final checks as we are finalising the report," said Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen.

The envoy, who was not named, is due to end their visit on Friday.

Mr Verheugen has stressed that torture must be punished.

On the basis of his report, national leaders will decide in December whether to start membership talks next year.

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