The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has refused to file charges based on torture allegations made by Zabit Kişi, 48, who said he was tortured for more than three months after being abducted from Kazakhstan by the Turkish intelligence agency (MİT), claiming a lack of evidence.
Speaking to Bold Medya, Kişi said he provided the prosecutor with documents and records he had gathered. However, the prosecutor, Adem Ayyıldız, said there was not enough evidence to start legal proceedings. Kişi alleged that the prosecutor did not sufficiently investigate his claims.
“The prosecutor did not even bother to hear my testimony,” he said. “Collecting evidence is the prosecutor’s job, but despite all my requests they [the prosecutor’s office] have not taken any action.”
Kişi, a teacher, moved his family to Kyrgyzstan with the hope of landing a job after he became unemployed in Turkey in December 2015. The private school he had been working for was closed after a government crackdown on schools run by businesspeople close to the Gülen movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
In his absence the authorities issued an arrest warrant for him, based on allegations that he was linked to alleged putschist admirals in the Gölcük Naval Command. It became obvious during cross-examination in court that the allegations were baseless and that neither of the admirals knew him nor did he know the admirals.
Kişi’s ordeal started when he was detained in Kazakhstan for immigration irregularities when he traveled from Bishkek to Almaty. The Kazakh court ordered him to return to Kyrgyzstan, where had had a family and maintained a residence. On September 30, 2017, he went to the airport with his lawyer for deportation procedures in Almaty and started waiting for his flight to Bishkek. During the security check, his lawyer was told he could not accompany him.
He was detained again at the airport and confined to a room. He overheard airport officials talking about a plane from Turkey that would be landing soon to pick him up. A MİT team forcibly removed him from the terminal and put him on a plane he described as painted with a camouflage pattern.
A minivan picked him up after landing at the airport in Ankara, and he was driven to what he described as a freight container where he was subjected to torture and abuse for more than three months. The three-square-meter container had no window, and he could barely move around. “It was like a grave to me,” he recalled. “My only escape from there was my death. I never imagined death could seem so pleasant.”
The MIT officers stripped him naked, slammed him against the wall, attempted to sodomize him with a hard object, electrocuted and crushed his toes and threatened to kill him. He had no access to legal representation or any other contact with the outside world.
Kişi turned up in an Ankara court on January 18, 2018, having drastically lost weight and claiming he was tortured. He was later sentenced to 13 years, six months in prison on terrorism-related charges.
Testifying at the Kocaeli 5th High Criminal Court on April 3, 2018, Kişi told the judges how he was beaten on the plane during the three-hour flight from Almaty to Ankara after his abduction. According to his account, the agents started hitting him in the head and genitals while he was blindfolded and handcuffed from behind. He passed out from the blows he received to his head, but the abuse continued after a member of the MİT team checked to make sure he still had a pulse.
The Turkish government is accused of engaging in the systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible returns to Turkey, with at least 100 Turkish nationals from multiple states that are dependent on Ankara for financial, political or humanitarian support including Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Gabon, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Pakistan removed to Turkey.
Speaking to Financial Times, Nate Schenkkan, Director of Research Strategy in Freedom House, said, “Turkey has done illegal renditions from more countries in the last six years than any other country in the world.”
“It will never end, not as long as Erdogan is in power . . . this is such a high priority for them that they will sacrifice other foreign policy goals,” Schenkkan added.
In different cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.
UN rapporteurs sent a joint letter to the Turkish government in May 2020 to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple states to Turkey.”
The rapporteurs said the Turkish government allegedly signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with multiple states for the expulsion or abduction of Turkish nationals and asked Turkey how those agreements were compatible with the country’s international human rights obligations.
In its response the Turkish government provided an info note containing its well-known views on the Gülen movement and the July 15 coup attempt. The letter, which was submitted by Turkey’s permanent mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva, requested that the UN rapporteurs “not … allow FETÖ [a derogatory acronym used by the government to label the Gülen movement] and its members to abuse these mechanisms and to dismiss their allegations.”