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Victims of failed 2016 coup – Turkish conscripts who were sentenced to life imprisonment

Some of them had been conscripted for five days while others were conscripts for five months. Now they are the victims of the crackdown following the coup bid that shook Turkey on July 15, 2016. The number of conscripts sentenced to life imprisonment on coup charges is much higher than generally assumed, but most of their families are afraid to speak up.

BOLD – When the putsch ensued on July 15, 2016, Ahmet Ozdemir and Mustafa Polat had been conscripted for five days. Emirhan Dogancılı had been a conscript for twenty days. Yasin Akgül and Recep Delice were conscripts for two and a half months and five months respectively. Tunahan Kurt had three months left to be discharged. They were held responsible for the deaths of 249 people (the death toll of the coup attempt) and sentenced to life imprisonment.

They have been waiting for justice in prison for three years, and their parents protest in public places for their rights. Families who trusted the Turkish judiciary for the first two years, keeping quiet about their imprisoned children hoping that the wrongful rulings would be fixed, resorted to protesting in the streets lately. However, families who stay silent and prefer to remain that way still make up the majority.

Ahmet Özdemir: He was taken from Metris Barracks and dropped in front of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality on the night of the coup bid. On that night it had been five days since he had come to Istanbul from Isparta, where he was enlisted in the boot camp. It was his first time in Istanbul. He was held responsible for the deaths of 14 people who were killed that night in front of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. He got a life sentence. He is currently incarcerated in Silivri Prison in Istanbul.

Mustafa Polat: Mustafa was also taken from Metris Barracks and brought to the main building of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality on that night. He was ordered to guard a depot behind the town hall and heard about the coup from a guy shouting out of a window while waiting there, unaware of what was underway. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, despite the fact that he sought refuge in a ventilation pipe out of fear. He is also incarcerated in Silivri Prison.

Emirhan Dogancili: Dogancili, who had lung surgery twice, was a young man who decided to serve in the military despite his condition. He had himself enlisted saying to his mother, “I do not want to hear people claiming that I did not go to the military because I am unfit for service.” That night, he was among the 34 conscripts who were taken from Kartas Barracks to the Acıbadem Telekom area in Istanbul. Although the ballistic examinations did not find any evidence against him, he got seven life sentences. He is also incarcerated in Silivri Prison.

Yasin Akgül: Akgül was among the conscripts who were deployed at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. He had an interesting conversation with his commander that night. His commander ordered Yasin to fire at the people while holding a gun in his own hand. Yasin did not do that and the commander repeated the order and Yasin disobeyed again. The conscript was threatened at gunpoint being told that if he resisted, he would be shot. Yasin was shot in the leg in the end for disobeying the orders. However, despite his bravery, he was also sentenced to life imprisonment. He is incarcerated in Şakran Prison. Her mother, Fadime Akgül, makes the trip from Izmir to Ankara every week on Wednesday and shouts out chants over her son’s innocence in the protests demanding justice.

Tunahan Kurt: Tunahan, who was among the conscripts deployed on the Bosphorus Bridge, is one of the lucky according to his father. 17.5 years imprisonment he got is a short sentence compared to others. Tunahan was taken from the Kartal Maltepe Nurettin Marshal Barracks and deployed on the bridge that night. It was 02.19 AM local time when they arrived at the bridge. After he disembarked from an armored vehicle he got shot, a bullet hit his helmet, and he got on the vehicle again never to leave again until the morning.

Recep Delice: Recep was a shepherd in a village in the central Anatolian city of Sivas. He was drafted on the 4th of February in 2016. He had been a conscript for five months when the coup attempt took place. On that night, he was taken from the Kuleli Military High School to the Bosphorus Bridge. Recep, speaking with a stammer, could not even defend himself properly on the trials and was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison. He also is incarcerated in the Silivri Prison.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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