On Friday (9 August 2019) Ankara Criminal Peace Judgeship decided to arrest Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan and Salim Zeybek who had been missing since February 2019 and unexpectedly turned out in police custody on 29th of July.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
The four persons went missing between February 2019 and 29 July 2019 following their respective arrests by people who claimed to be state agents. There are credible allegations that during their disapperance they had been held in Turkish Intelligence Agency’s Black-Site (‘the Farm’) in Ankara where torture and ill-treatment of abducted persons have reportedly been carried out. (See statements of Ayten Ozturk and Zabit Kisi who said they were held and tortured in the same premises.)
Ankara Bar Association announced that ‘in the early hours of July 29, Ankara Police Department called the families of the four disappeared people and informed them that Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan and Salim Zeybek were at the Anti-Terror Branch.’ The police informed relatives of the four victims that they were detained in front of the Ankara Police HQ during a routine police stop and search.
Despite Ankara Provincial Security Directorate (Police) claims that the persons in question were detained in front of Ankara Police HQ during a routine police control, experts who have been closely following their disappearance believe that the detention of the victims has been staged so as to disguise Turkish Intel’s involvement in their disappearence.
29 JULY 2019 | Family members observe psychological and physical signs of torture
On 29 July, 2019, the Police let Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan and Salim Zeybek were at the Anti-Terror Branchdetainees to be visited by their next of kin. They were however denied access to a lawyer. Ankara Prosecutor’s Office also dismissed a request from their lawyers and families to carry out an independent forensic examination to determine whether they had been subjected to torture during the time they were missing.
31 JULY 2019 | JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE BY FOUR NGO
On 31 July 2019, the Human Rights Association (IHD), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), Ankara Chamber of Medicine (ATO) and the Rights Initiative urged the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office to comply with law.
In the press conference, Kerem Altiparmak, professor of law and member of Ankara Bar Association’s Human Rights Center, highlighted that police’s claim 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.
Chairman of Ankara Chambers of Medical Doctors, Dr. Vedat Bulut noted during the press statement that they wanted to perform medical examination for the four detainees who were abducted and claimed to have been subjected to torture for almost six months.
1 AUGUST 2019 | ANKARA BAR ASSOCIATION URGES PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE TO ENSURE THE VICTIMS MEET LAWYERS ASSIGNED BY THE BAR
In a press statement by the Ankara Bar Association, followings were said:
Ensuring the “right to access to the defense” of the suspects in custody, who have been missing for 6 months, and their disappearance have been shared with the authorities and the public by their families, is accepted both by our internal legislation and by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
It has been observed that the suspects, who have been missing for long periods of time without any information and are currently detained, have not benefited from this right without any legitimate justification.
The existence of the Bar Associations, which are responsible and impartial for the protection of human rights, is a guarantee for both public authorities and individuals in cases where there are allegations of serious violations, as well as, it is necessary for the protection of democracy, the rule of law principle and fundamental rights and freedoms. It is clearly regulated in national and international legislation that the attorney meeting cannot be prevented at any stage of the investigation. For this reason, it is clear that it is a legal obligation to allow lawyers appointed by the Bar Center for Human Rights to meet with the above-mentioned suspects in order to ensure the safety of the investigation and to protect the rights of the suspects and also to inform the public in a healthy manner. Taking into consideration all these issues, we respectfully announce the request that the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office ensures the meeting of the lawyers, who are assigned to represent the Ankara Bar Association Human Rights Center, with the suspects kept in custody without delay and to inform the public about the transactions made.
5 AUGUST 2019 | MEP Mr. Tanrikulu: Kaya, Irmak, Ugan and Zeybek are to be coerced to sign pre-written confessions.
MP Sezgin Tanrikulu, who is also a lawyer, today said “On the one hand the four have been denied Access to a lawyers and medical examination and on the other families have been subjected to pressure to close their social media accounts and withdraw any legal proceedings they might have started”. Mr. Tanrikulu also said that Kaya, Irmak, Ugan and Zeybek will be forced to sign false confessions.
6 AUGUST 2019 |Human Rights Watch: There needs to be a full account of what has happened to these men since February, and everyone implicated in their presumed enforced disappearances should be held to account.
For full statement of HRW click here
The Turkish authorities are legally obliged to grant the families’ chosen lawyers access to the men and to enable confidential meetings. They should also permit independent medical professionals to conduct full medical examinations of the four men, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch spoke to the men’s wives about their brief meetings with their husbands.
The families had spent months publicly campaigning and lodging complaints with the authorities seeking information on their husbands’ whereabouts. The families said the men were very pale, had lost a lot of weight, and were unwilling to answer any questions about what had happened to them over the months they were missing.
The wives said the police prevented them from asking questions of the men or learning anything about their situation. The wives also reported that each of the men said, with police officers standing by, that they did not want to see a lawyer and that the wives should stop campaigning or lodging complaints about their cases and even withdraw existing complaints to international bodies and organizations.
The presence of police officers during these meetings, the men’s reported introverted manner of speaking, and apparent inability or fear to provide any information about the past five months fuels Human Rights Watch’s concern that they are being pressured to withhold information about their treatment and to collude in providing a fabricated version of their detention.
For full statement of HRW click here
For full statement of HRW click here
9 AUGUST 2019 |Ankara Criminal Peace Judgeship remands four victims to pretrial detention in the presence of lawyers who are not known either by Ankara Bar Association or the next of kin to victims
In the late hours of of 9th August, spouse of Ozgur Kaya tweeted that the judge decided to detain Ozgur Kaya with the presence of a lawyer whose identity was a mystery to her. She went on to say that even her husband himself did not know the lawyer who represented him though the prosecutorial office alleges Mr. Kaya, himself, empowered the lawyer. She continued ‘scripted, casted and staged, and my spouse was detained’.
Members of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee also reacted to unlawful process and detention. Mr Sezgin Tanrikulu said “the process was carried out to obscure the crime of enforced disappearance. Those who committed this crime would eventually be held accountable.” while Mr Gergerlioglu decried ‘we won’t concede this script.’
During the 1990s enforced disappearances became a pattern of human rights violations against Kurdish civilians’, this pattern had been disappeared in 2000s. A coalition consists of various human rights NGO has collected the names of more than 1,300 persons allegedly disappeared by state agents between 1980 and 2002 (the year the emergency rule was lifted) mostly in the Kurdish region. However,after the attempted coup of 2016 it was reemerged, and as mentioned above more than 25 enforced disappearance incidents have been reported since 2016. Sunay Elmas, Mustafa Özgür Gültekin, Hüseyin Kötüce, Turgut Çapan, Mesut Geçer, Önder Asan, Ayhan Oran, Mustafa Özben, Cemil Koçak, Murat Okumuş, Fatih Kılıç, Durmuş Ali Çetin, Cengiz Usta, Ümit Horzum, Hıdır Çelik, Enver Kılıç, Zabit Kişi, Orçun Şenyücel, Hasan Kala, Ahmet Ertürk, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Gökhan Türkmen , Salim Zeybek, Erkan Irmak, Fahri Mert, Mustafa Yilmaz, Ayten Ozturk have become victims of enforced or involuntary disappearances in Turkey.
For the Factsheet on Enforced Disappearances and Turkey click here