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Human Rights

Soldier detained in July 15 putsch bid tells what led to iconic “barn” photo

One of the most iconic photographs of the botched coup of July 15, 2016, was the naked soldiers handcuffed in the barn. One of the soldiers on the photograph spoke for the first time and explained what transpired in the barn.

Cevheri Güven

Turkish Military Academy graduate officer Mr. Mutlu Gülerce was a lieutenant. He was detained after July 15, arrested, and expelled from his post. He was one of the handcuffed soldiers in the iconic “Naked soldiers in the barn” photo, which had become one of the symbolic photographs of July 15.

What happened there?

The story of that photo and what happened there are disclosed for the first time.

Arrested after July 15, the gendarmerie lieutenant Mutlu Gülerce decided to speak after his long silence.

Ali Aktaş of Saadet Party, who is also a lawyer, posted the photo in his twitter account with a description:

“The putschist donkeys are kept in the barn.” After Ali Aktaş’s tweet started to circulate in social media again, Mutlu Gülerce decided to talk for the first time.

Here is an account of events that transpired in that barn from the viewpoint of ex-soldier Mutlu Gülerce:

“We did not use any weapons”

“I graduated from the Turkish Military Academy in 2015. As I was a gendarme, my mates and I were at the Gendarmerie Class School in Beytepe, Ankara, on July 15. While we had training, we also had a situation that started on the night of July 15 as a night training, then announced as a terrorist attack, as was the case in many places in the Turkish Armed Forces.

“I am on trial in the Gendarmerie Schools Command. Any military officers or high-ranking officers who have been tried in this case have never been out of the garrison and have never used any gun. On the morning of that night, a soldier or soldier-looking person named Veli Tire, along with a team with him, ordered us to gather in the amphitheater. We had commanders, both at school and out of the cantonment at night. They said they would take our statement as we were trainees.”

Affronted and beaten

“We were about 250 trainees with probably ten high-ranking officers. We were taken to Gaffar Okkan Equestrian Sports Facilities in Ankara by getting into Ankara Municipality’s vehicles and a few military vehicles. Plastic handcuffs, packing tape, rope, or so forth. We were handcuffed from behind with whatever they have found.

“Once we arrived in the Equestrian Facility, we have now figured out that the situation is far beyond what we had guessed. As soon as we entered through the door, invective words and insulting came out from their mouths. After they stopped our bus somewhere, we have seen another bus that came before us, full of soldiers. They were stripping the insignia of the high-ranking officers. They were also removing their camouflage, and the senior officers just remained with their underwear.

“Unfortunately, we have seen that they slapped and insulted our commanders because they only had high-rank. A policeman swore from outside to a friend of mine on the same bus, although my friend did nothing. As my friend reacted only to that curse, a police officer came to the vehicle we were in and slapped our friend, and swore again.

Stripped to underwear

“Then we were undressed until our underwear remained. Our personal belongings, bags, phones or wallets were taken away and not officially registered. All of them were collected in a garbage bag. Using brute force, they have taken us with insults to the place where that picture was taken.

“That was the area where horses run. Approximately 200 soldiers were brought there before we arrived. We were about 250 people, so the number exceeded 400 soldiers.

“When we entered the area, we have seen that the soldiers were made to sit on their knees with reverse-handcuffing, facing the walls. They were consistently cursing and insulting. They were cursing and humiliating before everyone sits.”

Starved for 36 hours, hosed down to drink water

We remained there for 36 hours. During all this time, no food was given in any way. Only a hose was brought, and from that hose, they gave water to drink. You’re getting in line to get some water. To do so, of course, a certain period was required. One of the police officers was holding a hose in his hand. The water was continually flowing, and you needed to drink as much as he wished. Once he said, “Done!!”, he took away the hose with anger. Some soldiers fainted due to both hunger and thirst.

Everyone was under a lot of strain. The police officers were not only cursing at the soldiers but also were taking their pictures. That famous picture in the barn probably reached the media through one of the police there. Later, people like Ali Aktaş also recorded them.

No first aid

It was forbidden to stand up or to talk. They constantly queued us up and counted us. There was both psychological and physical pressure. They came intermittently and slapped some of us. They were always trying to maximize tension. The psychological threshold of a few people was exceeded, and some people had a nervous breakdown and fainted. Let alone asking how the unconscious ones were; they didn’t do any first aid even or any kind of medical care. The fainted ones remained there until they came to themselves.

They were sending us, for our needs to use the bathroom, to a corner of where we were held. Sometimes they took us out of the area and hurriedly made us urinate on the wall. They were making us poop, with bare feet and handcuffed, in a few toilets in that place.

High-ranked soldiers kept with horses

“We were kept in the area where the horses run. A commander, for instance, they put him in a place where normally just a horse was kept. Think about how they treated him there. Cursing, beating, torturing… The highest ranks in the area were majors and colonels. It was not the most tragic place of July 15, but there were violations of rights that I mentioned.

“Then they took us on buses and drove to the Police Academy’s gym. We stayed in the gym at the Police Academy for four days. Rations consisted of just a small piece of bread and a packed mini jam. Later on, we were taken to Sincan Prison where they made a gathering area. We were kept naked, only with our underwear, for a week.”

No treatment to injured commander

“Sincan Prison’s yard was an open-top place surrounded by linoleum. It was a vast area. They brought the worst cops there. Constantly insulting, they also said evil things like “Let your prophet save you!!”. They were keeping us in order.

“We had a commander who had bullet wounds in several parts of his body. Bandaging his wounds, he was left there without any treatment, as if he was entrusted to God’s blessings only.

“We were continuously kept naked, and it was freezing over there. Some of our friends became ill. We had a commander who had kidney disease; especially, his situation was worse. We were very cold both in the barn and in Sincan Prison. We were making rings of 10 soldiers in order to prevent ourselves from the cold in Sincan. We were always rear-handcuffed at the Stable, Police Academy, and Sincan Prison yard.

Judge: You are innocent

“We then appeared in court. As a trainee, we were supposed to explain our problem more easily since we had to abide by the chain of command. The judge released the first 20 of the friends who did not go out of the garrison like us. But then there was probably pressure on the judge because the number of arrests would be lower. Then we entered the courtroom, and the judge said, “I decided to arrest everyone.” In his 50s, the judge turned his back slightly and said, “I know you’re innocent, but there’s nothing to do right now’.”

“After we were arrested, we were sent to the Sincan Prison. I have stayed in prison for nine months and ten days.”

“I am neither a putschist nor a donkey!”

As the trainee lieutenants who were taken there, we did not go out of the garrison, nor we used weapons against anyone. I am one of the soldiers in that picture, but I am neither a putschist nor a donkey, as Ali Aktaş mentioned in his Twitter account. My and my friends’ rights have been violated a lot, and we are all guiltless.

Human Rights

Turkish businessman suffers skewer attack in prison

Stabbed seven times with a skewer in Menemen Prison, Hazim Sesli is known for his proximity to Abdullah Gul and Ali Babacan, who established a new political party recently. What he said during his latest hearing was quite striking.

Mr. Hazım Sesli has been detained since October 22, 2015. The Erdogan Regime started arrests against the Gülen Movement in 2014 and turned its resentment towards the business people in 2015. While the billion-dollar companies like Koza and Boydak were targeted, the blanket factory owner Mr. Hazım Sesli was also one of the targets.

In this context, after Mr. Sesli was arrested and trustees were appointed to his factories in 2015, all of his assets were confiscated during the state of emergency in 2016. Hazım Sesli was a business person close to the politicians. He was especially known for his relations to the former President Abdullah Gül.

Record for gruesome assault

Mr. Hazım Sesli was subjected to a rather suspicious attack in Menemen Prison, where he was detained. The attacker named Fatih Oktay is a murderer prisoner who has previously flayed his wardmate’s scalp in prison.

Mr. Sesli was taken out of the cell where he was kept and taken with the guards for a weekly family phone call, and the attacker assaulted while on the phone. Fatih Oktay attacked Mr. Hazım Sesli with a piercing tool called skewer. First, the attacker targeted his heart but failed because the skewer hit the phone. Thereafter scuffle started and Mr. Hazım was injured in 7 places on his body. He was taken to the infirmary then to the hospital and subsequently brought back to his cell on the same day.

Fifteen years prison sentence 

Mr. Sesli has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. At the hearing at the Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court on September 17, 2019, he said, “There is a lot I know about current ministers and former ministers. I have not spoken until now, but if I speak, some politicians will be brought to the brink of chaos.”

Mr. Hazım Sesli said the following at the hearing in the court on September 17, 2019:

“I repeat my previous statements. The reports issued by The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey on my companies, which are administrated by the trustees now, are unilateral, unlawful, and these companies are managed unlawfully. My companies have been usurped. My companies aided many associations, companies, and foundations run by the government and the ruling AK Party. I have been in prison and a cell for 4 years. Despite all the petitions I have written, no information is given on why the prison authorities treat me antagonistically. Sesli family is discriminated against in every possible way, and it is unjust. We will call out for the mistreatment made later in the eye of law. We will bring these people to account in the same way as the coup plotters of September 12, 1980, and February 28, 1997, were brought to account. There is a lot I know about the current ministers and former ministers. I have not spoken until now, but if I speak, some politicians will be brought to the brink of chaos. I demand that this be known.”

Planned attack

Fatih Oktay, who attacked Mr. Hazım Sesli, said in his first statement that “Mr. Hazım Sesli is a traitor. For this reason, I wanted to kill him. I have carried out this attack because of his words insulting the nation”. However, Hazım Sesli has been in the cell and under isolation for 3.5 years. There is no possibility to speak with the attacker. It is also worth remembering here that Mr. Sesli received refusals from his petitions he gave to lifting the heavy isolation, chatting with other prisoners, and fulfilling his sports rights.

After meeting with his lawyers and relatives after the attack, Mr. Hazım Sesli stated that he considers the incident as a planned one, and it is an order that comes straight from the higher authority.

Taking this into consideration, it is necessary to focus on the attacker Fatih Oktay’s profile and the attack moment.

Earlier in Turkey, there were murders in prisons where the state’s “contribution” was somehow involved, when inspected, and the most featured one was Mustafa Duyar assassination.

Nuri Ergin, who killed Mr. Duyar in his cell, said, “This state instructed me to kill Mustafa Duyar. Learn about me more from Veli Küçük”.

Attacker’s profile 

It is a significant point how Fatih Oktay was able to take a piercing tool called “skewer” into a high-security-level prison. According to the allegations of the prison administration, he made the tool himself. However, there is another evident point.

The guards carry out body searches for the detainees or prisoners while they take out them from the cell for their phone-call time. It is another remarkable point that Fatih Oktay was taken out from his cell with his skewer for the phone call at the same time with Mr. Hazım Sesli and that the guards who had to be in the corridor at that moment did not intervene during the 7-times swelling of Sesli.

It was also interesting how Oda TV reported after the incident. The news, titled “They swelled the FETO imam (leader) in prison,” contained sentences to encourage similar attacks.

Another figure that was attacked in prison in the past days was Ömer Köse, former Istanbul Deputy Counter Terrorism Director. Köse was attacked by six guards in the cell where he was kept in Tekirdağ Prison. Köse, just like Sesli, was threatened before the attack, and he reported this situation to the prison administration with a petition saying, “my life safety is at stake.”


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Human Rights

Top-scorer law student’s life devastated

One of the 80 undergraduate students detained in the raid in Ankara is the top-scorer in the Secondary School Placement Examination. His father died in prison, and his mother was a victim of the crackdown on religious people during the military tutelage in 1997.


Eighty undergraduate students were detained in a raid against the Gulen movement on February 28. After 12 days of detention, authorities arrested some while releasing others.

One of the arrested students is Muhammet Miraç Özer, who is the final year student of Ankara University, Faculty of Law. Enrolling at the university with the 900th place among 2.255.386 who took the University Placement Examination test, Muhammet Miraç Özer was also the top-scorer among 1.112.604 participants who took the Secondary School Placement Examination test.

Miraç Özer’s father was a 48-year-old doctor who passed away in prison during the state of emergency. Her mother was a victim of the crackdown during the February 28 post-modern coup. The Erdogan regime has always stated they were victims of that crackdown. February 28 is the historic moment when the women wearing the headscarf who wanted to study at the universities were persecuted, and the beginning of the mistreatment against the people who practice religion started.

Mrs. Asuman Özer, whose son was taken into custody on February 28, 2020, after 23 years of February 28, 1997, underwent a somewhat similar trauma.

No valid grounds for arrest 

“My husband, Ali Özer, was arrested during the state of emergency. He died in prison two and a half months later. My son, who was recently arrested, suffered great psychological distress. He was then a second-year student at Ankara University, Department of Law. He had to drop for a year due to the trauma. He hardly recuperated. They arrested him for no tangible reason.”

Stating that two of her children continue with their education in Canada and Europe, Mrs. Asuman stressed that her eldest son Miraç stayed in Turkey to complete his studies in the Faculty of Law.

“Our house was in a remote district in Ankara. It was a 1.5 hours distance from my son’s school by car. He rented a house near the university along with a friend. Then he lived alone for a while after disagreements with his flat-mate. After a while, we had trouble meeting the costs, and he started to live with other friends of his. It was a house he had rented. It was certainly not a Gulen movement house, as claimed.”

“Miraç was in the second grade when his father passed away in prison. He literally had a psychological breakdown. I almost lost my child. He dropped out of school. A year later, he recuperated and continued to his education again. It took a long time to put our life and affairs in order again. He focused on his studies again.

He was the top-scorer in the Middle Schools Placement Examination in Turkey in his first year. He had only one incorrect answer out of 100 questions in his 2nd and 3rd years. As a very successful student, he also was the 900th student in the University Placement Examination. His success took him to the Faculty of Law. He really was a very successful boy. They ruined my son.

The Ankara Bar Association has drawn public attention to the torture of 80 students detained in the Ankara Police Department. The minutes published by the Ankara Bar read that the female students were being stripped to their underwear and beaten down, and police have forcibly removed their headscarves. Mrs. Asuman Özer was very worried about her son.

“They tortured the girls; I cannot imagine what they will do to the boys. I do not even want to imagine. They detained my son for 12 days and then arrested him with no tangible piece of evidence. If my son had any problems, he would carry on with his education abroad with us. He is a child who has no intention other than graduating from university.”

Saying that she still could not get over the pain of losing her husband, Mrs. Asuman Özer cannot keep her tears for her son’s arrest.

“They took away my husband, and now they took my son. What more do they want from us? Everyone in my family is in different countries. Miraç recovered very hard after his father’s loss. I almost lost my son right after his father’s death. He is just an ordinary person. What do they want from us? It is enough.”

Suffered during military tutelage

Mrs. Asuman Özer says that she has been the victim since February 28, 1997, and it is no different today.

Mrs. Asuman Özer stated that she had been the victim of her since February 28 and said, “I was a primary school teacher employed by the Ministry of Education. Three years into my career, the headscarf issue arose during the February 28 process. Since I was wearing a headscarf, an investigation was launched against me and I had to resign. I couldn’t do my job for 16 years. Then, when the headscarf ban was abolished, I returned to my profession. Three years later, this time, I was expelled with a Decree-Law in the state of emergency.”

Husband passed away

Working at Nallıhan State Hospital as a Chief Physician, Mrs. Asuman Özer’s late spouse Ali Özer started working as a primary care physician in Sincan, Ankara. He was detained during the state of emergency.

“On January 9, 2017, my husband was arrested. He passed away on March 22 after two and a half months in prison. He didn’t have any health issues before he was arrested. Authorities declared [the cause of death] as a heart attack, but the medical reports mention internal bleeding. We presented this report to the doctors and then filed a criminal complaint, but no effective investigation was conducted. I cannot claim anything, but my husband’s death was not investigated.”

Mrs. Asuman Özer wants her child to be released as soon as possible so that his education will not be interrupted for the second time, saying that her child is not involved in any crime.


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Human Rights

Imprisoned police chief beaten by guards

Entering the prison cell where former police chief Ömer Köse was kept alone, five or six guards assaulted him. Details of Köse’s health condition and attack are in the news piece.

BOLD – Istanbul Police Department’s former Anti-Terror Branch manager Ömer Köse has been in prison since August 2014. Mr. Köse, who was kept alone in Tekirdağ No 2 F-Type Prison with Penalty, was reportedly attacked on March 4 by the guards in his cell.

Ömer Köse was reportedly threatened by a guard after a phone call last Monday and that Mr. Köse reported this situation in writing to the prison administration.

Ignoring Mr. Köse’s written petition, the battering took place during the count on Wednesday evening. Köse’s account of the incident is as follows:

“Since I am kept in a single cell, a guard normally comes to the counts and finishes in a few seconds. However, 5-6 guards entered the cell on Wednesday. One of the guards suddenly started hitting my abdominal area and back. When I reacted to defend myself, my arms were held by other guards, and the guard who hit me first started punching me.”

The same guard previously quarreled with Mr. Ömer Köse reportedly and made efforts to prevent him from exercising his legal rights in prison consistently.

Prison psychologist ignored

Mr. Köse reportedly pressed the panic button after being assaulted, but the prison psychologist came along with the guard who attacked him. Mr. Köse reported the threats and explained to the psychologist how he was beaten in full detail, also submitting a petition to the prison administration. However, no action was taken.

Mr. Köse is reportedly in good condition currently.

Infamous prison 

The right violations against Ömer Köse in Tekirdağ Prison have been on the public agenda before.

It was mentioned that the isolation applied to Mr. Köse is quite unbearable. While all prisoners meet with their families in the same hall, the prison authorities allowed Mr. Köse for individual non-contact and contact visits with his family members in a special room. Thus, it is ensured that he does not see anyone other than the guards who come to his cell. The right to chitchat and sports are not allowed exclusively for Mr. Ömer Köse at Tekirdağ No 2 F Type Prison.

The most crucial problem faced by Mr. Köse is that his petitions are not processed. The guards intentionally ignore criminal complaints made by Mr. Köse to the prosecutor’s office about the practices of the prison administration.

On December 17, 2013, after the graft probe targeting Tayyip Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan and four ministers, Erdogan dismissed and arrested a large number of police officers, prosecutors, and judges. Erdogan labeled the probe as a judicial coup against his administration. Mr. Ömer Köse was one of the police chiefs arrested during this period.


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