University student sentenced to prison for retweeting post about torture case

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Reber Mazlum Safran, a student at Yüzüncü Yıl University in the eastern province of Van, was sentenced to two years, six months’ imprisonment for retweeting a post about two Kurdish villagers allegedly thrown from a military helicopter in September 2020, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Sendika news website.

Safran was accused of targeting public officials because the tweet included photos of Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez, Public Prosecutor Oğuzhan Dönmez and Gendarmerie Commander Yüksel Yiğit.

The court also mentioned that Safran had sent letters to jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş and philanthropist Osman Kavala.

The two Kurdish villagers, Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban, who were allegedly thrown from a military helicopter, were in fact assaulted by a mob of more than 100 soldiers, a report by independent deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık had later revealed.

Initial reporting on the incident by rights groups and media outlets cited a medical report giving the reason for their admission to the hospital as a “fall from a helicopter.”

According to Şık, the villagers were in fact thrown out of the helicopter but only after it had landed. The claim that they were thrown out of helicopter when it was airborne was based on an “official lie” told by the gendarmes to cover their crimes.

Şık’s research revealed that gendarmes in civilian clothes took Turgut and Şiban to two separate hospitals and told the doctors that the two were terrorists who clashed with them and later jumped out of a helicopter when they were being transported after detention.

Hospital personnel later recorded this account as the cause of hospitalization as a “fall from a height” and a “fall from a helicopter.” According to Şık the lie became widespread because the rights activists and lawyers who spoke to the press thought the victims had in fact been thrown from a helicopter.

In a statement on September 21 the Van Governor’s Office had denied the torture and claimed 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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