Report: Key evidence was spoliated in an investigation relating the murder of Tahir Elçi

First published on 11 Sep 2019, updated on 28 Nov 2019.

27 November 2019 | Turkish news website, T24 reports that after the report dated 11 September 2019 which revealed that key evidence in the investigation into the murder of Tahir Elci was destroyed, the Istanbul Police, on 11 October 2019, heart Mehtap Altug who witnessed and revealed the evidence tampering. The witness, Mehtap Altug who is a forensic geneticist in the Istanbul Forensic Institution, insisted on her initial testimony which was first recorded on 3 August 2016 in the course of another investigation. However, there, no criminal or administrative investigation has been reported yet regarding evidence tampering.


11 September 2019  | Turkish journalist Cevheri Guven reports that the most crucial evidence that might lead to the discovery of the perpetrator of the assassination of Tahir Elci was removed from the investigation file and spoliated in the Turkish Institution of Forensic Medicine. According to a bombshell news story published in Boldmedya spoliation of the evidence was carried out at the order of the President of the Institution of Forensic Medicine.


THE EVIDENCE THAT MAY DISCOVER THE MURDERER OF TAHIR ELCI WAS DESTROYED.

The forensic doctor Mehtap Altuğ, in her official statement, stated that the most crucial evidence for the investigation in relation to the assassination of Tahir Elçi was spoliated at the order of the President of the Institution of Forensic Medicine.

It was revealed that the most crucial evidence that might lead to the discovery of the perpetrator of the assassination of Tahir Elci was removed from the investigation file in the Institution of Forensic Medicine. Mehtap Altug, who is a forensic geneticist in the Istanbul Forensic Institution, explained the spoliation of evidence in detail during an investigation that was carried out by the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office. However, the issue was hushed up.

The President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Tahir Elçi, was shot to death on 28th November, 2015, in Diyarbakir. Despite the four years that have passed since then, the gun that fired the bullet which killed Mr Elçi has not been identified.

See, brief summary of the murder published by the Forensic Architecture

While the family of Elçi, together with rights defenders, continue to lament that there has been no effective investigation, it was revealed that the most crucial evidence in relation to the investigation was removed from the investigation’s file.

During the investigation on the murder of Mr Elci, pieces of evidence collected in the crime scene by the Diyarbakir Police were delivered to the Institution of Forensic Medicine, which is based in Istanbul. After the forensic expert Arif Bingöl began to examine the evidence, he discovered, on a swab which is used to collect DNA evidence, a DNA sample that belonged to a male. Bingöl registered this evidence on the National Judiciary Network Database (UYAP), however, this evidence was removed from the investigation’s file at the order of Yalcin Büyük, who is the President of the Institution of Forensic Medicine. The record in the National Judiciary Network Database was also erased by the Department Chief, Bestami Çolak, and thus the most important evidence which might lead to the discovery of the perpetrator, was spoiled.

SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE WAS RECORDED IN AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Excerpt from witness statement of Mehtap Altug

Mehtap Altug, who has been working as a forensic geneticist at the Istanbul branch of the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM), provided a witness statement on 3rd August, 2016, during an investigation numbered 2016/68697, which was being carried out by the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office. Altug detailed the spoliation of the evidence, which was carried out at the order of the President of the IFM, Yalçın Büyük.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE EVIDENCE BAG WAS VESTED IN ARİF BINGOL

Mehtap Altug stated that responsibility for the evidence bag which contained cartridge bullets, swabs and camera devices, was vested in the forensic expert Arif Bingöl, and she added that the other partners in the case were herself and Turgay Kandemir. Mehtap Altug continued as follows: ‘Arif Bingöl had discovered a DNA sample belonging to a male on a swab which is used to collect DNA evidence, however, this evidence was spoliated due to pressure that came from the higher ranks of the IFM. Altug stated further that the record made in the National Judiciary Network Database by Arif Bingol was erased by their Department Chief, Bestami Çolak.

The statement of Mehtap Altuğ reads as follows:

Excerpt from witness statement of Mehtap Altug

“Most recently, some four months ago, there were cartridge bullets, swabs and camera devices in the evidence bags relating to the murder of Tahir Elçi, the President of the Diyarbakir Bar. This case was being investigated by the forensic expert, Arif Bingöl. Other partners in the case were me and Turgay KANDEMİR. It was concluded, in the examination by the Police, that a DNA sample was not found on a certain swab. However, Arif Bingöl discovered a DNA sample, belonging to a male, on that swab. It was registered with the UYAP (National Judiciary Network Database) as a report. Arif Bingöl sent the report to me with an e-signature. I signed it in order to report it through the system. All three partners signed it. The report was sent through the system to be signed by the Chief of the Department of Biology, Bestami Çolak. The Chief of the Department, Bestami Çolak said, in my presence, to Arif Bingöl, that the President of the Institution, Yalçın BÜYÜK, and the Deputy President, Ömer MÜSLÜMANOĞLU, had instructed that that certain item be removed from the file. Bestami Çolak refused (to sign) the report through the UYAP (National Judiciary Network Database) … As I explained, above, the expert on the file, Arif Bingöl, prepared a new file by removing the DNA sample from the file, and this new file, having been signed, went to Diyarbakir.”

TRIO WHO GAVE THE INSTRUCTION FOR THE SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE ARE BLUE BOYS OF THE AKP ERA

 

Yalçın Büyük, President of the IFM, his deputy, Ömer Müslümanoğlu, and Bestami Çolak, the Chief of the Biology Department, are key figures in the allegation of the spoliation of evidence that was given in Mehtap Altuğ’s witness statement. All three were promoted by the AKP Government after it carried out a purge within the IFM in 2013. Yalçın Büyük has been President of the IFM since 4th June, 2013. Ömer Müslümanoğlu and Bestami Çolak are still Deputy Presidents of the IFM and Chief of the Biology Department, respectively.

DNA SAMPLE COULD HELP TO DISCOVER  THE PERPETRATOR

Since the bullet which hit Elci exited his body, DNA samples on the cartridge bullets collected from the crime scene were the most crucial and decisive evidence. Having found the cartridge bullets that killed Mr Elci, the gun which fired that particular cartridge bullet could be found with the help of a ballistic examination. This might consequently lead the investigators to the perpetrator. The destroyed swab thus had crucial importance in relation to the discovery of the gun which shot the cartridge bullet which killed Mr Elci.

WAS THE DNA REPORT REMOVED FROM THE INF’S DATABASE?

Although the DNA sample and the report on it were removed from the investigation file and from the National Judicial Network Database, according to Mehtap Altug’s statement, it may still be in the INF’s database, which is called ALIS. Altug provided her statement during an investigation that is irrelevant to the murder of Tahir Elci. Under Turkish Criminal Procedural Law,  the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office, which received a tip on a crime that suggested that there was spoliation of evidence, shall initiate an ex-officioinvestigation. However, despite the three-years since Altug’s statement, the Istanbul / Bakirkoy Prosecution Office has neither launched an investigation on the spoliation of evidence, nor has it notified this incident to the Diyarbakir Prosecution Office which is investigating the murder of Tahir Elci.


What is a swab?

Swabs used for forensic purposes are designed for comparative sampling or for securing traces at the crime scene, typical. traces and comparative specimens being blood, saliva, sperm, epithelian cells, etc. From the samples recovered, the DNA is purified and the DNA profile determined. This isalso known as the genetic fingerprint.


See, full report of the Forensic Architecture analyzing the moments of shoot out.



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  1. Turkey: Report: Key evidence was spoliated in an investigation relating the murder of Tahir Elçi | IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers
  2. Our statement on the fourth anniversary of the murder of Tahir Elci, then president of @Diyarbakirbaro – The Arrested Lawyers Initiative
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