Report: Torture inflicted by founding member of new Turkish party exposed

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Ali Türkşen

New evidence of severe torture carried out by Ali Türkşen, a former military officer who had been convicted in the Ergenekon case and who is also among the founders of the İyi Party (Good Party), recently established under the leadership of Meral Akşener, has been exposed by journalist Ahmet Nesin, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.

Nesin, a columnist for the Artı Gerçek news website, wrote on Saturday that some of the soldiers accused plotting a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 were severely tortured by retired military officer Türkşen. Nesin questioned Akşener as to whether or not Türkşen would continue in her party as one of the founders in light of the torture allegations and called on prosecutors to investigate.

“The following statements I am giving here were taken from the İstanbul SAT [Underwater Offense Command] case file related to the coup attempt of July 15, 2016,” wrote Nesin, quoting the testimony of Maj. Tahsin İşlekel and Metin Bircan, a noncommissioned officer in the Turkish army.

The relevant part of Bircan’s testimony shared in Nesin’s article is as follows:

“… I went to the SAT Command to get my car in the morning. When I approached my car, a retired colonel named Ali Türkşen and a colonel named Turan who was next to him asked me what I was looking for. I explained the situation.

“Saying that there was a disturbance at the SAT command, they searched my car. Then they put me inside and made me sit. There were other high-ranking officers there also. They did not handcuff me. Later, they handed us over to police officers. Col. Turan told them not touch me when they were taking us away. On the way the police assaulted the others with me.

“But they did not touch me. From there we were taken to the Beykoz Courthouse. We were arrested and taken to the hospital [for a medical check-up]. On the way the others were beaten again. I did not know them. I only knew a sergeant named Murat Fırat. I hadn’t met the others until then. We were taken to the Beykoz Police Station after the hospital. Here too, they were assaulted. They were pretty much beaten up. In the morning they took us to the İstanbul Police Department. And there they beat everyone but me. Then we were taken to the prison…”

The relevant part of Maj. İşlekel’s testimony is as follows:

“Col. Turhan walked in at around 7:00 a.m. and addressing me said: ‘Friends, confess everything; otherwise, a professional team is waiting in back to detect your weak spots and smash your face or harm your family.’ I was frozen after the things I heard and could not say anything.

“That crew came in from in back. Retired Col. Ali Türkşen, retired Maj. Erme Onat and a third person I had never seen before, with a hard face and beard who I later learned was Bülent Kuru, came in. They took the sergeant to the other room. The crew began to hit me without asking anything. Ali Türkşen hit me first when they first came in and then, asking permission from the others, he removed the rank bars from my uniform. ‘It’s much more appropriate to talk this way,’ he said.

“They gave me a blank sheet of paper after they hit me. ‘We will come back in five minutes and you will write the names involved. If not, we will cause trouble for your family,’ they said. I thought about what I would write. I wrote the names of Capt. Özay Cödel and Maj. Murat Çetinkaya, who were together with me on that day. I saw them in the squadron that day. I could not write anyone else’s name because I did not see who came out while I was in the meeting with the soldiers.

“I wrote the names of all the staff members who were on duty that day, in an effort to not keep the paper blank, still feeling the pain of the beating. I wrote down the names of four or five people. Col. Ali Türkşen had a knife in his hand this time. Erme Onat also had a knife in his hand. He put the knife on my throat. Ali [Türkşen] made my hand bleed with the knife. I tried to restrain the blade on my throat. They told me that I could not do anything. They got mad at me because I could not fill up the paper. They went in and out like this for a few more rounds. After the third time, Col. Turan and Ali Türkşen entered with a curly-haired sergeant who I thought was retired.

“He called me from where I sat at the table. He ordered me to kneel down in the middle of the room. The sergeant bound my hands and feet together. I was hog-tied and facing down on the ground. I was tied in such a way that when you move your leg, your arm is tightened with pain, and when you move your arm your leg will be tightened in pain. My face was on the floor. They said, ‘You cannot go to the toilet, either, you can defecate in your pants.’

“They tied me up at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning and checked me each and every hour. At midnight they untied me and I went to the toilet. After that I was tied up again. Turhan took pity on me. He said to the curly-haired sergeant, ‘Untie the rope between his hands and feet, and make him sit on the chair.’ When they came to me for the daytime check they asked me to confess that I was a member of the Gülen movement. I wouldn’t agree to it. I was kicked and punched as long as I refused. I was in such pain that after a certain period of time I said, ‘Whatever you say…’

“I was tied up in the chair between 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. They just gave me a glass of water. They gave me a slice of dry bread. They said they put drugs in the water, and they said sleep well. At 7:00 a.m. on July 17 [2016], they covered our eyes and mouths. They took us to the military unit while continuously banging my head on the wall. They said they were waiting for the prosecutor to come. We waited there for about two hours. The police came to that place. They untied my eyes. They took me to the Beykoz Police Department [in İstanbul]. We were also subjected to assault by the special operations police there. We were taken to the Istanbul Police Department. I stayed there for a while. After two or three days, I was sent to the Çağlayan Courthouse. I was arrested…”

The torture, ill-treatment, abusive, inhuman and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkey’s detention centers and prisons have become the norm rather than the exception under the heightened nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry in the country in the wake of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, mostly in jails and detention centers where torture and ill-treatment are being practiced. In most cases, the authorities judged these as suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond the prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 92 cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in a list as of November 2, 2017 in a searchable database format.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July of last year. The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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