In a press conference following a cabinet meeting in July 2021, Erdogan said, “we are now in a position to say that over a hundred individuals have been brought back to Turkey. MİT (Turkeys National Intelligence Organization), as a result of its special and patient operation, has brought Orhan İnandı, FETÖ’s foreman for Central Asia, back to Turkey and handed over to the judiciary.”
Erdogan omitted, however, that Orhan İnandı was kidnapped from Kyrgyzstan, tortured during transportation to Turkey, taken to a MİT “black site” and tortured there for 37 days.
The full details of the ordeal came to light during Mr İnandı’s court appearance in December 2021, almost 7 months after his disappearance in Kyrgyzstan. Mr İnandı described to the court how he was abducted late at night in front of his house by 3 Kyrgyz men, forced into a car, and beaten so badly that his left arm was broken in 3 different places. He was then handed over to MİT agents who flew him to Turkey. This technique appears to be MİT’s modus operandi in kidnappings carried out in foreign countries.
Mr İnandı told the court, “when I told [my kidnappers] I didn’t want to get in, they hit my arm… they pushed me into a vehicle and kept hitting my arm… because of the sharp pain, I knew my arm was broken.” He went further to claim he was injected with a substance, blindfolded and his hands were bound by plastic handcuffs.
In the morning, he was handed over to whom he believed were Turkish agents, was driven across the border, and placed on a small plane. The torture continued on the plane; “as soon as I was on board, they started hitting me in the back of my head,” he said before the court, adding that he was made to take the 5-hour journey sitting on his knees down on the floor of the aircraft, coping with the excruciating pain in his badly broken arm.
Photos show his broken arm as well as torture’s other physical impacts on Mr İnandı.
Mr İnandı was taken to a “black site” for “interrogation”. There, he was put in a cell he described as “a large grave or a coffin… two and a half metres by two metres wide and two and a half metres high”. During his first interrogation at MİT’s black site, Mr İnandı was told; “You will now tell us everything you know… If you make our job easier, it will be easy for you. Otherwise, my friends here will torture you in ways you can’t even imagine. We know how to make you talk”; the torture then began with the utilisation of “a heavy stick with barbed wire wrapped around it.”
Moreover, so as to make him talk, he was forced to beg to use the toilet where he was allowed to spend no longer than a minute. As he was suffering from a chronic prostate disorder, he said he had to limit his water intake to reduce the need to use the toilet. In the 37 days of his unlawful detention, and therefore enforced disappearance, he was only allowed to wash once; “I couldn’t stand my own smell anymore. I asked them, ‘Would you please give me fresh underwear?’ After a lot of cursing and swearing they gave me a fresh pair…only once.”
Later, when MİT handed Mr İnandı over to the police, instead of making sure he received immediate care, they used his despair to get him to sign a statement they prepared. He recounted to the Ankara Court, “they told me ‘If you make your statement as we say, we will get you treated and you can have your [arm] surgery immediately. Otherwise, we may keep you in detention for up to 12 days and you will stay in detention.’ So, I accepted whatever they said and signed the statement.”
The transcript of Orhan İnandı’s statement in court is not easy to read. You can almost feel the despair of the educationist who had spent more than 25 years in a foreign country building up a network of schools and universities when he suddenly found himself in the most horrific of situations. “There were such moments when I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter whether they torture me, or they pull my nails out. So long as I can get out of here, it is OK.’ ” He stated before the court.
Unfortunately, this trail of events is not uncommon. As part of the purge against the members of the Gulen Movement in the wake of the failed coup of July 2016, Turkey is known to have set up detention centres operated by the MİT where individuals were held following their arrest; this amounted to enforced disappearance. Later, MİT began to use such sites to hold those they kidnapped.
In an additional account of this maltreatment, Ahmet Ozben, a Turkish lawyer, was kidnapped in Ankara in broad daylight. He was taken to a secluded location where he was kept for 92 days. In his testimony before the Turkish Tribunal, he stated that his torturers told him “this is a place (where he was being held) which neither exists nor doesn’t. We are the state here.”
While the Turkish government boasts about such kidnappings and denies any wrongdoing, in four separate cases that were filed by the victims of similar international abductions, the UN human rights bodies found both Turkey and its co-conspirator country breached human rights.
(1) In the case of Mesut Kaçmaz, Meral Kaçmaz and their two children who were forcibly taken to Turkey from Pakistan without judicial oversight, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Pakistan and Turkey violated numerous rights and freedoms envisaged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights including the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, the right to a fair trial and the right to liberty.
(2) Similarly, in the most recent case that was filed by Alettin Duman and Tamer Tibik who were forcibly taken from Malaysia to Turkey, Turkey and Malaysia violated the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty along with numerous other violations.
(3) In the case of Mustafa Ceyhan who was abducted in Azerbaijan and taken to Turkey, WGAD found that Turkey and Azerbaijan violated, inter alia, the prohibition of discrimination, the right to liberty, and the right to a fair trial.
(4) Likewise, in the case filed against Kosovo and Turkey by Kahraman Demirez, Mustafa Erdem, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Yusuf Karabina, Osman Karakaya and Cihan Özkan, WGAD found that the prohibition of discrimination, the right to liberty, and the right to a fair trial have been breached by two countries.
European Court of Human Rights also found that abduction-style expulsions of Turkish citizens from Azerbaijan and Moldova breached the Convention.
(5) In the case filed by five Turkish teachers who were expelled to Turkey while they were legally residing and working as teachers in Moldova; the ECtHR found that the applicants were removed from Moldova by way of an extra-legal transfer which circumvented the guarantees offered by domestic and international law and breached Article 5 and 8 of the Convention.
The Court stated that material in the case file also indicates that the joint operation of the Moldovan and Turkish secret services was prepared well in advance of operation leading to the extra-legal transfer of the applicants.
(6) Lastly, in the case filed by Taci Shenturk, Isa Ozdemir, Ayhan Seferoglu and Erdogan Taylan who were forcibly returned to Turkey while they were working as teachers at a private school in Azerbaijan, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of the right to liberty and security of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. The Court found in particular that the removal of the applicants had been disguised as extradition and their deprivation of liberty had been part of an extra-legal transfer in contravention of domestic and international law, noting how the authorities had circumvented formal extradition proceedings and relevant international safeguards.
It is evident that it is the international community that is upholding the human rights of Turkish civilians rather than the Turkish government. In Mr İnandı’s court statement, he attempts to explain his capture in as much detail as possible, but is met with a lack of concern over the specifications; “Why are you telling us all this?! There is no need for such details! We’ve heard enough” exclaimed the presiding judge of the court in response to Mr İnandı’s credible account of torture and his abduction.
The Turkish judiciary, which was meticulously designed by Erdogan through a number of legislations and of course dismissal of thousands of judges in the wake of the failed coup of July 2016, is clearly unwilling to offer a remedy to victims of torture for the pain they have endured. Therefore, until and unless the Turkish judiciary starts punishing those who are responsible for torture, the victims will continue to rely only on the international community, including human rights organisations, rather than their own judiciary system to provide the justice they deserve.