A Kurdish villager from the southeastern province of Van who survived alleged torture by Turkish soldiers, unlike another villager who succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, said an assault carried out by a mob of more than 100 soldiers caused his injuries instead of a fall from a helicopter, the reason given in a doctor’s assessment, independent deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık reported on Monday.
Initially, rights groups and media outlets reporting on the incident cited a medical report giving the reason for their admission to the hospital as a “fall from a helicopter.”
This was a lie told by the perpetrators of the torture, according to Şık, who claims that soldiers delivering the villagers to the hospital when they were unconscious told the doctors they were terrorists who had engaged with them and that they had thrown themselves from the helicopter on which they were being transported.
“This was an official lie told by the perpetrators to protect themselves,” Şık said and added that the lie became widespread because the rights activists and lawyers who spoke to the press thought the victims had been thrown from a helicopter.
Osman Şiban was discharged from the hospital on September 20 and later received a medical report stating that he was not able to provide an official statement to the authorities.
On September 30, 55-year-old Servet Turgut, a father of seven, succumbed to his injuries in the Van Regional Teaching and Research Hospital’s intensive care unit.
According to Şiban, who had suffered partial memory loss due to his injuries, a group of Turkish soldiers had detained him and Turgut in the Van countryside on Sept. 11 and taken them to the Van Gendarmerie Command by helicopter.
Speaking to the Mezopotamya News Agency, Şiban’s brother Cengiz claimed that both victims were taken by gendarmes in view of all the villagers, who were forced to remain on their knees during the detention of the two men. While they were being taken away, villagers who tried to follow them were threatened with death by the soldiers, Cengiz added.
On the way, Şiban says, soldiers had shown him the dead body of a militant, purportedly a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), claiming that Şiban knew him. When he said he didn’t recognize the body, he was battered by the soldiers.
Şiban recalls one voice saying, “Don’t hit the elderly one [Servet Turgut], he might die.”
“The helicopter landed. I saw many soldiers out there. Maybe 100 or 150 soldiers were there; they were armed and ready. They first threw the dead bodies [of militants] out of the helicopter, and then us,” Şiban was quoted as saying in narrating the incident.
“I heard someone shouting, ‘This terrorist is still alive!’ Then all the soldiers mobbed us. Ten or 20 of them came for each of us. I don’t know what they did to us. I don’t know what they did to me. They threw us on the ground and then started hitting us. ‘Terrorists,’ they called us as they battered us. We are villagers; we are citizens. I don’t know how long it went on. I passed out.”
“The fact that Van’s top military commanders waited in front of the Van Council of Forensic Medicine for the autopsy of Servet Turgut is very telling,” Şık’s report said. “Were you there to cover up your crimes?”
“Although it has been 53 days since the incident, instead of identifying the perpetrators of this torture, the fact that journalists who reported on the incident were arrested is evidence of this coverup. Surprise us if we are wrong,” Şık concluded.
Four journalists were arrested on Oct. 9 over their reports on the incident on charges of disseminating propaganda on behalf of the PKK.