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Villager allegedly thrown from helicopter indicted for membership in terrorist organization

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Osman Şiban, a Kurdish villager allegedly thrown from a military helicopter in the southeastern province of Van, has been indicted for membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

The prosecutor accused Şiban of providing logistical support to the PKK. According to the indictment, PKK militants took food supplies from his house in the village of Surik. Three containers of diesel fuel (40 to 50 liters each) that were found in the vicinity of Şiban’s house were also considered evidence in the indictment.

The Van 5th High Criminal Court transferred Şiban’s case to Mersin, where he resides. The indictment also included the testimony of an informant who claimed that two top PKK figures, Murat Karayılan and Mahsum Korkmaz, had a meeting at Şiban’s house at the time. Korkmaz died in 1986.

Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut were detained by gendarmes while working on their farm in September 2020 and were allegedly pushed out of a military helicopter. 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.”

Yet, research by opposition deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık revealed in November 2020 that the villagers were in fact assaulted by a mob of more than 100 soldiers.

According to Şık, the villagers were 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 had fought 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 that the villagers were hospitalized after they fell from a cliff while running away from security forces despite an order to halt.

Şiban was discharged from the hospital on September 20. 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.

Four journalists were arrested in October 2020, over their reports on the incident on charges of disseminating propaganda on behalf of the PKK.

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