The family and friends of Fahri Mert (44), who was abducted in İzmir two weeks ago by people who introduced themselves as police officers, have been unable to get any information about Mert’s whereabouts and are waiting for answers from the authorities, the tr724 news website reported on Monday.
With Mert’s disappearance, one more person has been added to the list of people who were kidnapped in black Transporter vans.
Mysterious disappearances have become a common occurrence in Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016.
Dr. Hasan Kala, an academic who was dismissed from his job by government decree over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was abducted after being forced into a black Transporter van in Ankara on July 21, 2018.
Orçun Şenyücel, a former public employee who was dismissed from his job, was also abducted after being forced into a black Transporter, with video footage on the Internet clearly showing his abduction.
Şenyücel worked as an expert at the Competition Authority until his dismissal over alleged links to the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016. The group denies any involvement.
Another victim, Cemil Koçak, an engineer who was dismissed from a government position over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was forced into a black van in broad daylight in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. Koçak had been followed by four cars (a black and a white Ford Focus, a VW Transporter van and a Fiat Doblo).
One of those cars hit Koçak’s car to stop him, and he was forced into the black in front of his 8-year-old son.
Ümit Horzum, a former civil servant who was removed from his job at the Turkish Accreditation Agency (TURKAK) by a decree issued last year, appeared at a police station 133 days after he was abducted from his car in Ankara. Horzum was emaciated and exhausted. His ribs were broken and his eardrum was ruptured.
The police department claimed they had detained him in Ankara’s Ümitköy district. However, Horzum told his lawyers he was transferred from one car to another. Horzum’s release came 145 days after his abduction. He was delivered by unknown people to the police 133 days after his abduction in Ankara. He was referred to court after 11 days in custody.
Önder Asan, a private school teacher who was allegedly abducted by unidentified people, turned out to be in police custody at the Ankara Police Department’s Bureau of Organized Crime. Asan used to work as a philosophy teacher at a secondary school that the government shut down over its links to the Gülen movement. A witness saw men who said they were police officers abduct Asan in Ankara, forcing him out of a taxi and bundling him into a Volkswagen Transporter van.
After his family received a call from a police station 42 days later, they found him in custody. He was taken before a judge and sent to detention pending trial on alleged terrorism links. Asan told his lawyer he was interrogated and tortured during those 42 days. “I saw my client Önder Asan on May 13 at the police station,” his lawyer told Human Rights Watch. “He had trouble walking and held on to the wall. His hands were shaking. He was badly affected and said he needed psychological help.”
Human Rights Watch documented five cases of abductions in Ankara and İzmir between March and June 2017 that could amount to enforced disappearances. An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is taken into custody, or otherwise deprived of their liberty by the state or its proxies, but authorities subsequently deny it or refuse to provide information about the person’s whereabouts, placing the victim outside the protection of the law.
According to Human Rights Watch, the circumstances surrounding the abduction of three other men — Turgut Çapan, Mustafa Özben and Cemil Koçak — share common features with that of Asan. All three were dismissed from their jobs as teachers or civil servants under state of emergency decrees.
Çapan was an acquaintance of Asan, and Asan had seen him on the day he was abducted. Witnesses to the abductions of Özben and Koçak said the men were put into a black or dark-colored Volkswagen Transporter van, accounts that are corroborated by security camera footage.