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Minister accuses Kurdish villagers allegedly tortured by Turkish soldiers of aiding terrorists

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Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, has claimed that Kurdish villagers Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban, who were allegedly tortured by Turkish security forces in September before Turgut died of his injuries, had been aiding members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK).

During a 2021 Budget Committee meeting in parliament on Thursday, Soylu responded to allegations that Turgut and Şiban were beaten and thrown out of a helicopter by Turkish soldiers, a method of torture in Turkey in the 1990s when Kurds were victims of extraordinary violence.

Saying that Turgut was found in a location where Turkish security forces were conducting an operation targeting the PKK, the minister added: “A chase took place, and he [Turgut], slightly battered when they [the soldiers] caught him, said Osman Şiban was the one who was aiding and abetting those people [the PKK].”

“The soldiers also took Osman Şiban, who owns the house where Turgut was caught, and made them get on a helicopter. When they asked me about it earlier, I said an incident like throwing someone out of an airborne helicopter defies logic,” Soylu said, declining to use more assertive language to deny the allegations.

“Eventually, they all arrived at a spot in a helicopter. And if something happened after that, whatever it is, we will reveal it through ongoing administrative and judicial investigations. However, you should know that, at the time, those soldiers had just lost their commander who was killed by a terrorist,” the minister stated.

He further said he avoids passing judgment in a case where the villagers in question were “members of the militia and evidently aiding and abetting them.”

The two villagers, who were detained as part of an operation conducted by Turkish security forces in Van’s Çatak district on September 11, were found by their families in a hospital with serious injuries two days later.

Turgut succumbed to his injuries in the hospital on Sept. 30, while Şiban was discharged on Sept. 20.

Although initial reporting on them cited a medical report giving the reason for their admission to the hospital as a “fall from a height,” Şiban, who had suffered partial memory loss due to his injuries, said he and Turgut were violently beaten by Turkish soldiers both in the helicopter and after they were pushed out of it, when they were introduced as “terrorists.”

According to a report drafted by independent deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık, the villagers were thrown out of the helicopter only after it had landed, but the gendarmes, who took them to two separate hospitals, told the doctors that Turgut and Şiban were terrorists who had attacked them and later jumped out of a helicopter when they were being transported after detention.

The Van Governor’s Office had denied the torture in a statement on Sept. 21, saying that the villagers were hospitalized after they fell from a cliff while running away from security forces despite an order to halt.

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