The forensic doctor Mehtap Altuğ, in her official statement, stated that the most crucial evidence for the investigation in relation to the assassination of Tahir Elçi was spoliated at the order of the President of the Institution of Forensic Medicine.
BOLD – It was revealed that the most crucial evidence that might lead to the discovery of the perpetrator of the assassination of Tahir Elci was removed from the investigation file in the Institution of Forensic Medicine. Mehtap Altug, who is a forensic geneticist in the Istanbul Forensic Institution, explained the spoliation of evidence in detail during an investigation that was carried out by the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office. However, the issue was hushed up.
The President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Tahir Elçi, was shot to death on 28th November, 2015, in Diyarbakir. Despite the four years that have passed since then, the gun that fired the bullet which killed Mr Elçi has not been identified.
While the family of Elçi, together with rights defenders, continue to lament that there has been no effective investigation, it was revealed that the most crucial evidence in relation to the investigation was removed from the investigation’s file.
During the investigation on the murder of Mr Elci, pieces of evidence collected in the crime scene by the Diyarbakir Police were delivered to the Institution of Forensic Medicine, which is based in Istanbul. After the forensic expert Arif Bingöl began to examine the evidence, he discovered, on a swab which is used to collect DNA evidence, a DNA sample that belonged to a male. Bingöl registered this evidence on the National Judiciary Network Database (UYAP), however, this evidence was removed from the investigation’s file at the order of Yalcin Büyük, who is the President of the Institution of Forensic Medicine. The record in the National Judiciary Network Database also erased by the Department Chief, Bestami Çolak, and thus the most important evidence which might lead to the discovery of the perpetrator, was spoiled.
SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE WAS RECORDED IN AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT
Mehtap Altug, who has been working as a forensic geneticist at the Istanbul branch of the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM), provided a witness statement on 3rd August, 2016, during an investigation numbered 2016/68697, which was being carried out by the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office. Altug detailed the spoliation of the evidence, which was carried out at the order of the President of the IFM, Yalçın Büyük:
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE EVIDENCE BAG WAS VESTED IN ARİF BINGOL
Mehtap Altug stated that responsibility for the evidence bag which contained cartridge bullets, swabs and camera devices, was vested in the forensic expert Arif Bingöl, and she added that the other partners in the case were herself and Turgay Kandemir. Mehtap Altug continued as follows: ‘Arif Bingöl had discovered a DNA sample belonging to a male on a swab which is used to collect DNA evidence, however, this evidence was spoliated due to pressure that came from the higher ranks of the IFM. Altug stated further that the record made in the National Judiciary Network Database by Arif Bingol was erased by their Department Chief, Bestami Çolak.
The statement of Mehtap Altuğ reads as follows:
“Most recently, some four months ago, there were cartridge bullets, swabs and camera devices in the evidence bags relating to the murder of Tahir Elçi, the President of the Diyarbakir Bar. This case was being investigated by the forensic expert, Arif Bingöl. Other partners in the case were me and Turgay KANDEMİR. It was concluded, in the examination by the Police, that a DNA sample was not found on a certain swab. However, Arif Bingöl discovered a DNA sample, belonging to a male, on that swab. It was registered with the UYAP (National Judiciary Network Database) as a report. Arif Bingöl sent the report to me with an e-signature. I signed it in order to report it through the system. All three partners signed it. The report was sent through the system to be signed by the Chief of the Department of Biology, Bestami Çolak. The Chief of the Department, Bestami Çolak said, in my presence, to Arif Bingöl, that the President of the Institution, Yalçın BÜYÜK, and the Deputy President, Ömer MÜSLÜMANOĞLU, had instructed that that certain item be removed from the file. Bestami Çolak refused (to sign) the report through the UYAP (National Judiciary Network Database) … As I explained, above, the expert on the file, Arif Bingöl, prepared a new file by removing the DNA sample from the file, and this new file, having been signed, went to Diyarbakir.”
TRIO WHO GAVE THE INSTRUCTION FOR THE SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE ARE BLUE BOYS OF THE AKP ERA
Yalçın Büyük, President of the IFM, his deputy, Ömer Müslümanoğlu, and Bestami Çolak, the Chief of the Biology Department, are key figures in the allegation of the spoliation of evidence that was given in Mehtap Altuğ’s witness statement. All three were promoted by the AKP Government after it carried out a purge within the IFM in 2013. Yalçın Büyük has been President of the IFM since 4th June, 2013. Ömer Müslümanoğlu and Bestami Çolak are still Deputy Presidents of the IFM and Chief of the Biology Department, respectively.
DNA SAMPLE COULD HELP TO DISCOVER THE PERPETRATOR
Since the bullet which hit Elci exited his body, DNA samples on the cartridge bullets collected from the crime scene were the most crucial and decisive evidence. Having found the cartridge bullets that killed Mr Elci, the gun which fired that particular cartridge bullet could be found with the help of a ballistic examination. This might consequently lead the investigators to the perpetrator. The destroyed swab thus had crucial importance in relation to the discovery of the gun which shot the cartridge bullet which killed Mr Elci.
WAS THE DNA REPORT REMOVED FROM THE INF’S DATABASE?
Although the DNA sample and the report on it were removed from the investigation file and from the National Judicial Network Database, according to Mehtap Altug’s statement, it may still be in the INF’s database, which is called ALIS. Altug provided her statement during an investigation that is irrelevant to the murder of Tahir Elci. Under Turkish Criminal Procedural Law, the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office, which received a tip on a crime that suggested that there was spoliation of evidence, shall initiate an ex-officio investigation. However, despite the three-years since Altug’s statement, the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office has neither launched an investigation on the spoliation of evidence, nor has it notified this incident to the Diyarbakir Prosecution Office which is investigating the murder of Tahir Elci.
What is a swab?
Swabs used for forensic purposes are designed for comparative sampling or for securing traces at the crime scene, typical. traces and comparative specimens being blood, saliva, sperm, epithelian cells, etc. From the samples recovered, the DNA is purified and the DNA profile determined. This is also known as the genetic fingerprint.
Bar Association files criminal complaint over enforced disappearences
Ankara Bar Association compiled a joint study report on seven people who became victims of enforced disappearance in 2019. The report was sent to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office, along with a criminal complaint.
Mustafa Yılmaz, Salim Zeybek, Özgür Kaya, Gökhan Türkmen, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan and Yusuf Bilge Tunç were abducted by men with black transporter vans in 2019. Four of them were handed over to the Ankara Police Department after being tortured for six months. The two were similarly given to the police in the 9th month — no word from Yusuf Bilge Tunç.
Many claimed that these people were abducted by government officials and tortured in the area called “Çiftlik (Ranch),” which belongs to the Special Operations Directorate of the National Intelligence Organization. Among them, Salim Zeybek was abducted in front of his wife, Betül Zeybek, and his children. However, the criminal complaints made by neither the Zeybek family nor other families have been adequately pursued by the prosecutors.
Report on enforced disappearances
Ankara Bar Association, Human Rights Center, crafted a report on the issue and filed a criminal complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In the criminal complaint, the studies conducted as a result of the application of the relatives of the abducted were elaborated and following the issuing of the Joint Monitoring Report, it was stated that with the decision of the Ankara Bar Board of Directors dated 05/02/2020, numbered 77/28, it was decided to convey the denouncement to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The criminal complaint stated the following:
“As a result of the researches and evaluations made by Ankara Bar Association Human Rights Center on the alleged enforced disappearances; as applicant Nuray TUNÇ’s husband Yusuf Bilge TUNÇ’s whereabouts are still unknown, an investigation that complies with international standards regarding her complaint needs to be carried out without delay. In terms of other applications, whose relatives have been enforced disappearances for at least five and maximum nine months, and which appeared in the police after the applications, it was determined that the suspected were deprived of the following: rights in the light of the state’s obligation to protect the right to life-related to enforced disappearance and to conduct an effective investigation, the right of everyone accused of crime to have a one-to-one meeting with their lawyers, the right to benefit from the assistance of the advocate of their choice, the right to appear before the judge immediately and the liabilities of the person whose freedom is restricted, having investigations open to public supervision and no investigation was carried out in which victims’ relatives participated in the process.”
In the criminal complaint, which stated that allegations of violations of rights were not duly carried out following the universal standards on rule of law, lawyers demanded from prosecution to deepen the investigation.
“For the reasons explained above and to be considered as ex-officio; We kindly request you to initiate a criminal case against the suspects to be detected in the light of the minutes, reports and documents obtained regarding the allegations of enforced disappearances as a result of the applications received by the Ankara Bar Association.”
The report includes considerations about the relatives’ statements of the abductees and the documents they provided.
The members of the Human Rights Center of the Bar Association went to meet with Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya and Salim Zeybek in Sincan No.1 F Type Prison on August 27, 2019, only to be informed that the prisoners did not want to meet lawyers, and they only met Salim Zeybek. However, the minutes of their meeting with Zeybek were taken away from the lawyers forcefully, and the lawyers were subjected to insults and threats by the prison officials.
Pointing out to the denial of the right to a lawyer to the detainees by the authorities, it was emphasized in the report that the missing persons showed up in police custody in the same way, gave the same statements, had the same physical signs (weakening, distraction, etc.)
The report read that six people have never been able to meet with their families or lawyers alone and that there is a government official in all the meetings, so they have not had the opportunity to explain the torture or violations of their rights.
In the report, while emphasizing the right to hire a lawyer, it was mentioned that the family of the six people refused their lawyers, the impression that this was done as a result of pressure, and the circumstances regarding the lawyers sent to them were suspicious.
In the report, it read that probes into enforced disappearances, and the cases over which victims face trial must be separated: “The probes into the enforced disappearances must be separated from the probes into the alleged criminal acts of the victims. It is paramount that information regarding the probe into enforced disappearances, which are not dangerous to share, disclosed. The family must be notified regarding the development of the case, ensuring their participation in the process.”
FSA members employed in Turkish Army ranks after naturalization
Following the naturalization of 500 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters by Ankara, the Turkish Armed Forces(TSK) and the National Intelligence Agency(MIT) employed these militants. The “jihadist” Simon Hassan, who started his career as a captain in the Turkish Army, is one of them.
Simon Hassan has been made a captain “fighting on behalf of Turkey,” in his own words, after three years in the Free Syrian Army. Two months ago, Turkish citizenship was granted to Hassan. He was employed by TSK as a captain and will return to his duty after receiving treatment for a short period in a hospital. He has all the social rights of a captain in TSK and is paid the same salary. Her family was also naturalized, along with Hassan. “I’m not the only one,” he says.
Same rights as TSK staff
According to a report by Serdar Fırat from Grihat; new names and identities were given to jihadist FSA members so that they would not attract attention. According to military sources, so far, 500 jihadists were granted citizenship and were employed by TSK. The FSA militants receive the same salary as the official staff of the TSK.
There are also 15 jihadists employed by the National Intelligence Service through the same process. Security sources informed that 15 militants who were naturalized are now the official staff of MIT, and more than 200 militants from FSA are used as intelligence staff.
Unrest in TSK
The jihadists’ employment by the TSK allegedly created severe distress within the Army. It is also reported that sergeants, who are in the lower rank, forwarded their discomfort through official channels, especially about those assigned to the upper positions within the command chain.
Currently, the jihadists who are acting with the Turkish Army in Syria are given 500 dollars per month.
Education from SADAT
The FSA militants, whose stance is likened to the spirit of ‘National Forces (Kuva-yi Milliye) by the administration of President Erdoğan, are now sent to Libya as mercenaries. So far, 3,000 jihadists have been transported to Libya via Istanbul, accompanied by Turkish soldiers. The jihadists wear military camouflage and bear the Turkish flag. They do not hesitate to loot in some areas while fighting in these uniforms. Two thousand five hundred dollars are paid to those who go to Libya, and a 6-month contract is signed.
Turkey sees FSA as a genuine power and wants to keep members of the FSA in Syria. So far, 15 jihadists have died in Libya. International Defense Consultancy Company SADAT conducts the FSA training and programming, and this company decides who will be naturalized and determines their ranks within the military.
Torture convict cop promoted
Impunity for torturers has become a state policy in Turkey. The latest example was a police officer convicted of murder being promoted.
USD one and a half million -belonging to a businessman from the Laleli district of Istanbul- was stolen while a courier was transferring it in 2009. Oktay Kapısız was acting as a chief police officer in Istanbul when the incident took place. Police forces, under the command of Oktay Kapısız, raided the addresses of 29 suspects in 2010. It later came out that Murat Konuş, one of those suspects, had been tortured to death.
Defendant released despite the life sentence
An investigation was launched after authorities found that he died of torture, and four police officers stood trials as potential suspects. The Istanbul 2nd Heavy Penal Court found four police officers guilty of murder in last July. Oktay Kapsız, Ramazan Adıgüzel, Murat Ertürk ve Abdülcelil Karadağ were sentenced to aggravated life in prison on charges of “causing death through torture.” Their sentence was reduced to life in prison. The court that found the suspects guilty ordered their release pending their appeal.
Court cases stalled for years, acquitting alleged torturers
Police or military officers accused of torture have rarely been given sentences in Turkey. Meanwhile, President Erdogan’s policies in recent years have allowed torturers to go unpunished.
This also happened in the latest episode: Oktay Kapısız, a chief police officer, remains in office despite being sentenced to life in prison on charges of torture. He has even received a promotion. He was appointed as a top police officer to Mugla province, one of the most beautiful holiday places in Turkey, from the southeastern city of Çukurca.
A farewell ceremony was organized in his honor, where the city’s mayor and senior military officers were present.
The statement as to how Kapısız could remain in office after being convicted of torture is quite interesting: “Since Kapısız appealed against his conviction, his punishment is not yet absolute.”
Victim’s lawyer slams the decision
Nuri Köse, the lawyer of Konuş family who lost their relative, lashed out against Kapısız’s promotion and said “It was proved with video surveillance, witness statements and forensic reports that Murat Konuş was tortured to death. The evidence is unmutable, the facts that the case is not closed, the suspects were released after receiving lifetime jail term, and they keep their posts, demonstrate that the trial was not fair.”