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No indictments issued in case of villagers thrown from copter in SE Turkey in 2020: lawyer

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A lawyer has said that no indictment has been drafted in the past 21 months after an investigation was launched into an incident in which two Kurdish villagers were allegedly thrown from a military helicopter and tortured in southeastern Turkey in 2020, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.

Kurdish villagers Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut, who were detained by gendarmes while working on their farm in September 2020, were allegedly pushed out of a military helicopter. Rights groups and media outlets’ initial reporting on the incident, following which Turgut succumbed to his injuries in a hospital on Sept. 30 and Şiban was discharged but reportedly had suffered from partial memory loss, cited a medical report giving the reason for their admission as a “fall from a helicopter.”

However, 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 the helicopter when it was airborne was based on an “official lie” told by the gendarmes to cover their crimes.

Lawyer Hamit Koçak told Gazete Duvar on Friday that although an investigation was launched into the incident back in 2020, the prosecutor had not drafted an indictment in the past 21 months, adding that the delay was “deliberate” and “negligent.”

“Although the prosecutor [initially] told us he was going to finish the investigation without delay, he has ignored the case since then. As the defense attorneys in the case, we have repeatedly met with the relevant prosecutor … to get him to prepare the indictment as soon as possible. Each time, the prosecutor told us that some processes relevant to the investigation hadn’t been completed,” Koçak said.

Emphasizing that judicial authorities were still being protective of law enforcement officers in such incidents that prompted outrage from the public, the lawyer said their approach to the case wasn’t “reassuring” and that they, as the defense attorneys, didn’t believe justice would be served in the case.

Koçak said that if so desired, the investigation could be completed in a short time but that the judicial authorities were “reluctant” to do so.

The lawyer also stated that a confidentiality order prevented them from seeing which documents were added to or taken out of the case file and that they expected the prosecutor to put an end to this “unlawful situation.”

Amnesty International considers the allegations that the villagers were thrown from a helicopter credible and released a public statement on Sept. 25, 2020, calling for a “prompt, independent and impartial investigation” into the incident. The organization is concerned about the victims’ right to access justice.

In fact, throwing people to their death from a helicopter was a known method of torture in Turkey in the 1990s, when the Kurds were the victims of extraordinary violence. As is the case today, the then-ill treatment received almost no media coverage. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 1995 that suspected female terrorists were thrown from a helicopter on May 14, 1994, citing a “reliable” witness.

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