Prosecutor accused of failure to investigate Ankara abductions

Lawyer Emir Seydi Kaya has accused the prosecutor’s office of failing to investigate claims that his client Erkan Irmak was abducted in Ankara along with five others, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported on Tuesday.

Kaya spoke during a joint press meeting held by prominent members from the Human Rights Association (IHD), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), Ankara Chamber of Medicine (ATO) and the Rights Initiative.

The meeting was organized in order to make statements about the situation of six people who have allegedly been abducted in Turkey’s capital since February.

Four of those abductees, Yasin Ugan, Ozgur Kaya, Salim Zeybek and Irmak were on Monday found in the custody of Ankara’s counterterrorism (TEM) police, after nearly six months.

Ugan, Kaya, Zeybek and Irmak, along with Gokhan Turkmen and Mustafa Yilmaz who have not been found yet, were sought in investigations into the Gulen movement prior to going missing.

Therefore, it is alleged by many that the six men were victims of enforced disappearances.

The Gulen movement and its leader, the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen are deemed terrorists by the Turkish government and are also accused of orchestrating the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Both Gulen and members of his movement strongly deny any coup-related allegations and involvement in terror activity.

“When we asked the prosecutor [of the case] what kind of investigation he is doing about the disappearances, he told us that the [four] men were detained the other night and that what had happened before that did not concern him,” the lawyer explained during Tuesday’s briefing.

“This prosecutor doesn’t investigate the torture claims,” Kaya argued, adding that he also rejected their demand for detainees to be examined by independent doctors.

The joint statement, which was read by IHD President Ozturk Turkdogan, underlined that Turkish authorities were neglecting their responsibility to effectively investigate human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice.

“The only thing that comes to our minds in relation to this incident is that a special unit within the state is carrying out these abductions and that everybody else is keeping quiet about these practices.

“We do not want one more report on extra-judicial practices. Turkey has to abolish those special units now. If Turkey is a state of law, it has to abide by them,” the statement warned.

The rights groups further said that the police had allowed only one member of each family to visit the detainees, while the lawyers had still not been permitted to visit their clients.

According to statements from their family members the detainees have lost weight and were in a restless state.

Referring to Yilmaz and Turkmen, they also emphasized in the statement that they expect an effective investigation to be carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office so that the two men can be found immediately.

An academic and human rights advocate, Kerem Altiparmak, also held forth that the police’s treatment of detainees had caused suspicion of a coverup of serious misconduct.

“The abductees’ families had filed complaints immediately after those people had gone missing, but they had not been provided with any information about the progress of the investigation,” he said.

He indicated that a confidentiality order cannot be given in cases of disappearances apart from some exceptional situations.

Considering the current psychological state of the detainees, Altiparmak highlighted that police claims that the four men refused to have lawyers that would defend them do not make sense.

“Now why would a person who has been missing for six months decline to be represented by a lawyer? There is no reasonable explanation for that,” he stated.

Altiparmak also expressed that neither the lawyers nor the families had information whether the detainees had undergone medical checks.

“This process is a critical time period to cover up evidence of the torture if there is one,” he underlined.

ATO Board Chairman Dr. Vedat Bulut then noted that they wanted to perform medical checks for the four detainees who were abducted and claimed to have been subjected to torture for almost six months.

Sumeyye Yilmaz, the wife of abductee Mustafa Yilmaz said she does not even know whether her husband is dead or alive.

“I have not received any news about my husband for 163 days. I want those responsible to perform their duties effectively. What I expect is not hard for them to do. I will fight for this to happen,” Yilmaz vowed.

The Ankara-based Rights Initiative released a report in June about the allegations of enforced disappearances and torture that took place in Turkey since the 2016 putsch attempt.

The report concluded that 26 out of 28 cases of disappearances since the attempted coup were connected to the persecution of alleged Gulen movement members, while it suggested that at least 16 of them were detained in Ankara.

Another report by Correctiv, a non-profit investigative newsroom based in Europe, asserted in December 2018 that Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT) keeps the abductees in a secret detention facility in Ankara called “the Ranch,” where state agents interrogate them using torture.

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