Ali Babacan, former deputy prime minister from Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) who founded a rival party in March, said that he would closely follow the case of soldiers throwing two villagers off a military helicopter.
Villagers Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut had been detained by Turkish soldiers heading out to an operation in the countryside in the eastern Van province on Sept. 11. Their families did not hear from them for two days, after which the two men were found at the intensive care unit of a public research hospital in the province.
Turgut died after he had been in an intensive care unit for 20 days with two brain haemorrhages, a total of 11 broken ribs, and several tears in his lungs. Both his cheekbones were broken, and there were fractures on his fingers, arms, legs and feet.
Witnesses said Şiban and Turgut had been dropped from a helicopter, while the preliminary report said their injuries were consistent with falling from a high altitude and mentioned soldiers saying the men fell from a cliff.
The case, for which chief public prosecutor’s office in Van issued a confidentiality order, has made no headway. Journalists from the Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency and all-women agency JinNews reporting on the incident have been detained and later arrested, a week after Mezopotamya agency’s website was banned in Turkey, alongside several other outlets.
Babacan paid a condolence visit to Turgut’s family after his Democracy and Progress Party’s (DEVA) provincial congress in Van on Monday. He also called Şiban on the phone and wished him to get well soon.
“We told Babacan about the incident from the very beginning. He said that they would follow up and bring forward the case at parliament. He promised us that he would closely monitor developments,” Hüseyin Turgut, the son of the slain villager, told Ahval.
“The prosecutor’s office is investigating my father’s case. We do not know what evidence they collected since there is a confidentiality order,” Turgut said. Soldiers involved in the matter have testified against the villagers, saying they had not been ordinary farmers and accusing Servet Turgut of terrorism. “So, I have doubts about the collection of evidence,” said the concerned son.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Van deputy Tayyip Temel submitted a parliamentary inquiry for Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Sept. 21, saying the epicrisis report on the two villagers supported eyewitness testimony that they had been thrown off a helicopter, and asking whether an investigation had been opened on which soldiers were involved in the incident and the nature of their involvement.
The Van Governorate issued a statement on the same day, saying Turgut had refused to comply with soldiers’ orders and fell off a cliff as he ran, and Şiban was “understood to have aided members of the separatist terrorist organisation.” Both men had been “detained in an appropriate manner despite resisting the arrest,” it said.
“I am calling out to the government from Van. Nowadays there is talk about judicial reform. Then, I make an open call: Come on, do what the rule of law requires. Reveal what was done to Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban, and put perpetrators on trial,” Babacan said during the DEVA congress.
“You have to clarify all aspects of the death of a 64-year-old person,” he continued. “If you do not do it, this nation will remember you as the government that brought back torture. We will end torture in this country and we will never turn a blind eye to these practices.”