Forced disappearance of the regime’s opponents, torturing them in secret sites for months or killing of them are practices seen in different periods of Turkish history. Those practices which Kurds suffered in the early ’90s are now in use after a long time for the Gulen movement’s members.
Since the start of 2016, 29 individuals were abducted. There are still no words on the whereabouts or wellbeing of some of them and hope is already lost for them being alive.
In February of 2016, six people were abducted in a similar way: Gökhan Turkmen, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Salim Zeybek and Mustafa Yılmaz.
Gokhan Turkmen, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak turned up in the Anti-Terror Department of Ankara Police Headquarter after 6 months of their forced disappearance.
Remaining 2 persons, Mustafa Yılmaz and Gökhan Türkmen, were found “being turned over to police”.
Their first words: withdraw the applications lodged before International Courts
The observations of their wives, able to see them after months, are the same: They have lost extreme weight, have blanched and are scared.
They have not been allowed to see their families or lawyers alone. The visits in police custody can be made under the surveillance of police officers or the surveillance of guardian in prison, despite being against the law. Besides, more than one police officers or guardians are present during the visit. And the whole visit is filmed by video cameras.
The first things they said were the same and they sound like to be dictated:
“I don’t want a lawyer, withdraw the applications filed before international courts and institutions regarding our disappearance and tortures, give up on the complaints filed before Turkish courts, stop twitting.”
They were not allowed to see lawyers retained by their families
The formerly abducted persons were able to tell their families and lawyers about the tortures that they had experienced before being jailed. Thanks to those statements of which the Courts had been aware afterward, the secret place of the Turkish Intelligence Service has been uncovered.
This time, a different method has been followed for those last six. Officials did not let them meet their lawyers or families alone. They said they do not demand a lawyer with the memorized phrases while being in fear due to tortures they had faced for months.
Then, some “surprise” lawyers, known by neither families nor appointed by a Bar association, have appeared. No one knows who paid those lawyers either.
Those lawyers who display a nationalist profile have avoided giving information about those abductees persons to their families.
One of those lawyers is Neslihan Koçer. She insisted upon there is no torture or abduction during our conversation. According to Koçer, they had hidden in an unknown place but then they decided to turn themselves in. She claimed that she came across Ugan and Kaya in the police headquarter where she was for another business. However, she left unanswered the question of why these persons did not ask for their lawyer. Following the publication by Bold Media of her interview, she applied to a Turkish court and blocked access to Bold Medya’s website in Turkey.
Applications to International Courts
Their families showed great efforts for months following their abduction. After exhausting all domestic remedies without any result, they tried remedies in international law. The Committee on Enforced Disappearance of the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights accepted to review their applications and requested a defense from Turkey. And, one of the repeated phrases by all those 6 persons was “Withdraw your applications from international courts”. In spite of their husbands’ requests, the families are determined to maintain their applications.
Twitter is the sole place of freedom
The families, who could not have their voices heard due to censorship over Turkish media, used social media, in particular, Twitter, very efficiently.
The tweets of families racked up thousands of share and in this way, they received public attention.
Sümeyye Yılmaz, the wife of abducted physiotherapist Mustafa Yılmaz, thinks that her use of Twitter played an important role to get her husband back alive.
She said “my husband wants me to stop tweeting, does not want a lawyer and asks for withdrawal of international applications. Those cannot be my husband’s phrase, they sound like memorized phrases. I will continue my fight.”
Zehra Türkmen, the wife of Gökhan Türkmen, said “I will not withdraw my applications to international courts. I will keep up my legal fight. I will bring those (responsible for my husband’s disappearance) to account.”
Ankara Bar Association not being allowed to appoint a lawyer
Ankara Bar Association has designated a committee of lawyers to visit the 6 abducted persons. However, the administration of prison did not allow the visit despite the provisions of law expressly authorizing it.
Since the abducted persons were forced to say that they do not want to have a lawyer, the Bar association has been left unable to intervene. Turkey has never seen this level of pressure before.
Kerem Altıparmak, a human rights lawyer, summarises the situation as follows:
“People have gone missing for months. Their families have been looking for them at that time. This person turns up after months and says I was hiding. So he knows how his family’s situation is but do nothing. The person, coming out of nowhere, persistently decline his family’s and Bar association’s offer for having a lawyer. He insists upon working with a lawyer who is not known by himself or his family. The person who has been running for months suddenly become an informer and give many persons’ name away. Those persons are secretly tried by a special court. What a coincidence that the same scenario plays out for each abduction.”
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a rights activist and an MP from the pro-minority rights Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), noted the similarities of the last abduction cases:
“Forced disappearances are the most important human rights violations. We receive reports of intense torturing in the aftermath of the abduction. They have been kidnapped and then turned up in police custody. In the latest cases, none of the abducted persons want to speak in police custody. Their wives believe that their husbands were forced to speak against their will. The same story goes for Gökhan Türkmen, the very last to be found, and all the other five persons; they have lost weight, their skin has got white due to lack of sunlight and been asking for the withdrawal of applications filled to international courts. All the cases are the same.”
A special court
The special court, referred to by Kerem Altınparmak, is Ankara 34th Heavy Penal Court. It is also known as “MİT (Turkish Intelligence Office) Mahkemesi” by the public. The cases in which MİT takes interest will be judged by this special court which was formed in September 2019. This is a kind of a court special to MİT.
Four of them were brought to this court on 24 and 25 September for the first time. CHP lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkılu, a prominent human rights activist, went to the Ankara Court House to observe the first trial.
He describes what he has seen as “I searched the courthouse with the families for two hours to find in which hearing room Salim Zeybek and Özgür Kaya’s trial is being held. No official in the courthouse gave us information regarding the place of trial. The hearing room of 34th Heavy Penal Court was empty. A secret trial is being conducted and this is against the law.”
The 6 persons, after missing for months, are not being let to choose their lawyers, to meet their families alone and been tried secretly. They are even isolated in their prison cells. Thus, they could not find an occasion to talk about the tortures they underwent when they were missing.
However, Ayten Öztürk and Zabit Kişi, apart from those 6 persons, had the occasion of telling the tortures they experienced in MİT’s torture center called “Çiftlik” in Ankara.
They were able to describe, both orally and written, what they had gone through.
Here are some of the things that Ayten Öztürk experienced:
“I was taken blindfolded to the torture room. They were first undressing me and handcuffing me in a hanging position to iron rings on the wall. They were pressing an electric shock device on all over my naked body. When they did this, my whole body was shaking and I was screaming at the top of my voice. They kept doing it until I passed out. Marks, looking like holes, were appearing on every part of my body where they applied the taser. Marks in which there are 2 cm gaps between its edges. When I was sent to a prison, my fellow inmates counted my marks of which there are 898. When I was about to pass out, they were taking me to a bathroom and continue torturing with high-pressure water. Sometimes they were doing waterboarding for hours. While one was spraying high-pressure water, another one was holding me to fill the sack on my head with water. They used the shock device also while waterboarding me. And sometimes they were taking the sack off, opening my eyes and pouring the water in my nose.
Moving was impossible in the place called “coffin”. In the cell, though, there was beaten, threat and swears on every occasion. They hit me in the head and face very harshly more than twice. They were doing this until my mouth and nose were covered with blood and got bruised. I was also given an electric shock through my little fingers and big toes. They wrapped a metal ring around my fingers and gave the shock by using a remote control. I passed out a few times so that I could not stand on my feet. When they stopped giving an electric shock, they were harassing all my body with their fingers and sticks. They were trying to thrust the stick into my genital area.”
Zabit Kişi also revealed in the (court) hearing his experiences of the torture center where he remained 103 days :
“Once I got there, they undressed me. I am not able to talk about the harassment and dirty talks that I witnessed. Two persons held me by my arms and hit me on a kind of wall. They gave electric shocks of which they sometimes increased the voltage to different parts of my body starting from the top of it. When I was in sitting position, they turned the sole of my feet upwards and crashed my fingers one by one. One month later my fingers started recovering and some of my nails came back. While I was sitting handcuffed behind the back, they stepped onto the handcuffs.
For a few days, I struggled to hold a spoon to eat the food they gave me. I had to take pills in prison due to the loss of sensation in my fingers and nerve damages.
They threatened to rape me when I was naked and they attempted to do it with a hard object. They repeated this despite my begs.
As I was sitting, two persons held me by arms and hit me in the back, my ribs got cracked. I suffered a lot each time I breathed due to the pressure of ribs on my lung. They were asking me to answer aloud, even though there was a sack on my head. To do that, I was taking deep and fast breathes through my mouth and because of that I experienced a respiratory problem and heartthrob.
The torture team was changing but the torture was going on.”
Zabit Kişi and Ayten Öztürk were not even permitted by the courts to see doctors despite revealing the torture they went through. No probes were launched over the torture allegations.
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.”
Former service members of Turkish intelligence tortured in police detention
The detainees who have reportedly been tortured in Ankara turned out to be the MIT employees. H.Ç.’s lawyer told about her observations in the Police Department of Ankara.
Twenty-seven people who were detained in the pitch-black morning of December the 18th in Ankara by the Prosecution Office, were identified as former employees of the Prime Ministry. However, it turned out that they were the purged personnel from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and that they were subjected to intense pressure during the detention process.
According to information provided by the lawyers of detainees in Ankara Anti-Terror Branch, the first day of detention was full of threats, insults, and psychological torture.
The wife of a former MIT employee, H.Ç., who is also a lawyer, provided the information that those who were in custody were ‘interrogated’ at 22.30 on the first day. They were threatened with rape and sexual assault by showing bottles lined up side by side.
Detainee in panic
H.Ç.’s wife said that she visited her husband twice, and her first visit was yesterday. She stated that everything appears to be normal yesterday, nevertheless after the interrogation during the night, she saw that her husband was in a panic today:
After being expelled, my husband had neither undergone any investigation, nor prosecution. When I met him, he was in fear and scared. Ordinarily, the lawyer interview rooms are closed and no cameras are fixed.
But interestingly it was not the same in the Ankara Anti-Terror Branch. There were full of glasses on both sides of the room. The outside sound was directly coming inside, and vice versa. My couple started to explain by saying, “This place is not good.” At 22.30 in the evening yesterday, they took seven other people, who were in the same situation as him, for ‘interview.’ They took him somewhere else in Anti-Terror Branch. They had a half-hour ‘interview.’ They insulted and threatened the entire half-hour meeting. They threatened them over their wives, and as this part hurt him very much, he did not give too many details. They threatened and insulted him over the families or mothers.
They said several things like, “Even if we leave you here, we’ll pick you up again. We don’t need a warrant or a custody order to arrest you”.
“Bottles are prepared for you”
Afterward, they showed the bottles put side by side and threatened by saying, “Look, we greased this bottle for you. We say just ‘hi’ to you today; you guess what we’re going to do tomorrow.” They shoved him relentlessly. At present, he has not been beaten and subjected to violence. There is psychological torture, and they are threatened by saying, ‘Be smart, talk!!!’ and implying that torture will begin tomorrow by saying ‘See you again tomorrow!!!’.” I’m worried about what can be done during tonight’s interrogation. Previously, the same thing happened to the former employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ankara Bar Association recorded the heavy torture and reported it.
Ankara Bar Associaton launches an investigation
The lawyers informed the Ankara Bar Association about their clients’ experiences, and the Human Rights Board of the Bar Association was authorized to meet with detainees.
It was mentioned that detained persons are kept in Ankara Anti-Terrorism Branch’s Campus, which is on the way to Eskisehir city.
Eighteen in custody
On the morning of December 18, 27 former Prime Minister employees were announced to be issued a custody order. It was learned that 27 people were National Intelligence Organization personnel, not Prime Ministry. Eighteen people out of 27 could be taken into custody, and they all were purged during the state of emergency from MIT. Among them are employees working as intelligence staff and supporting staff. It is stated that detentions were undertaken within the scope of the Hizmet investigations.
The 34th High Criminal Court was established in Ankara for the prosecution of MIT employees. The establishment of a special court for judging only one institution’s staff drew criticism of the lawyers. Six people who were abducted in February 2019 and who were handed over to the police after six months of immense torture began to be tried in this court.
Parents arrested, disabled children left at home alone
On the International Day of Disabled Persons, Ali & Elif Kisa was arrested for being elected to the Peoples` Democratic Party (HDP) administration. One of their children is deaf and mute and the other is mentally disabled.
On December 3, the International Day of Disabled Persons, parents of two disabled children were arrested in the Elbistan district of Maraş.
According to Mesopotamia Agency; 70-year-old Ali and Elif Kısa have been detained 3 times since 2017. Ali Kısa, who supports his family with his retirement pension, has been involved in political activities for many years. Ali Kısa, who has been the HDP district manager since HDP was founded, was detained together with his wife Elif Kısa in 2017. While his wife was released by judicial control, Ali Kısa was arrested on charges of helping the terror organization. After being detained for 7 months, Kısa was acquitted from the file on which he was tried. During his detention in prison, Ali Kısa, who had severe conditions and high cholesterol prostate surgery, decreased from 116 to 79 kilos.
Threat before the congress
Ali Kısa was taken into custody together with his wife Elif again on November 13, 2019. They were released on condition of judicial control after the threats “If you go to HDP and join the administration again, we will get you again”. Ali Kısa was re-elected to the management at HDP District Congress on November 17th. Ali Kısa was taken into custody with his wife Elif again on 3 December. Ali and Elif Kısa were arrested on terror charges.
Parents arrested on the International Day of Disabled Persons
Ali and Elif Kısa were arrested on December 3rd the International Day of Disabled Persons and their two children with disabilities were left alone. One of their sons is 44-year-old İsmail, who is mentally challenged, deaf and speech-impaired. İsmail has a “Severe Disability” report which means he is totally in need of his mother’s care.
Their other son is 42-year-old Ahmet, with a hearing and speech disability of 64 percent. Ahmet closed his painting workshop so that he could look after his brother. Both brothers cannot hear the doorbell as they are hearing and speech impaired. İsmail is also obsessed with cleanliness. He was bathed every day by his mother. He can not eat without the help of someone. His fingers bleed because he often cuts his nails. For not taking his medication regularly, he gets nervous.
Toğrul: Children cannot sustain their lives
HDP Deputy Mahmut Toğrul also pointed out the situation of Ali and Elif Kısa in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. “In Elbistan, Ali Kısa, Elif Kısa, and Bekir Kara were detained on 3 December and arrested. Ali Kısa and Bekir Kara are our current district managers and Elif Kısa is our previous district manager. Ali and Elif Kısa are 70 years old and have 2 children. One is 80 percent mentally challenged, the other is hearing and speech impaired. There’s no one else in the house. The two children are not able to look after themselves at home. The family has expressed their children`s situation in custody, but they have been arrested in spite of this.”