Court testimony reveals torture in detentions in Turkey

File photo.

A Turkish Air Force officer testified in the court about how soldiers who were accused of involving in the coup were subjected to torture and abuse during the detention by the order of commanders.

Mehmet Sağlam, the major pilot who denied any involvement in the coup, said he and other soldiers were deprived of a food for two days in the detention. “We were only given water a few times with a bottle cork in order not to die.” He added that their hands were handcuffed from behind the back, their feet wrapped by a packing tape and forced to sit down on a concrete.

Sağlam’s testimony was given on Feb.6 in the first hearing in the trial about events that took place in Etimesgut base on the night of coup attempt. Ankara No.13 Criminal Court has been hearing 27 defendants in the case. Of which, 21 suspects are in pre-trial detention.

‘I WON’T TELL MORE BECAUSE MY WIFE IS ALSO PRESENT IN THIS COURTROOM”

“When our comrades handed us over to the police, they told them to do whatever needed. The police responded by saying not to worry about that at all and added that they would draw detainees’ blood from their veins with syringe. Everybody in the police station was groaning [from the torture and abuse].”

Major Sağlam said he does not want to share more details about horrifying torture he was subjected because his wife is in the courtroom. “I won’t tell more about what happened later in the police station because my wife is also present in this courtroom,” he remarked.

Human right advocacy group Amnesty International (AI) said last year that it has credible evidence of torture including severe beatings and rape in detention centers in Turkey and urged Turkish government to allow independent monitors to access the detainees. Amnesty also said that the detainees had been denied access to lawyers and family members and had not been properly informed of the charges against them, undermining their right to a fair trial.

Sağlam, an officer for 27 years, said he had no prior knowledge about the coup and in fact made a reservation to spend a vacation with his family at a hotel in Mediterranean resort city Antalya around the time the coup happened. “I had gone on a leave before 15th of July. I reserved a room for the holiday and paid TL7,000 TL on July 10th. I was planning to go to on a vocation while I was called back to the mission. Then both me and my family members’ life fell apart,” he explained.

He said he did what he was ordered by his superiors including Gen. Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and Special Forces Commander (SFCdr) Major General Zekai Aksakallı. Otherwise he would be killed or court martialed for not obeying direct orders from his superiors. “Normally there are five levels in the command chain to get an order until me. In the case of not obeying this order, we would get in trouble,” he noted.

He said torture was ordered by Aksakallı and Special Air Regiment Commander (SARCdr) Colonel Ümit Tatan, during the detention at the base and later continued in the police station.

The testimony corroborated earlier evidence of photos shared by the state-run Anadolu news agency that showed torture and abuse on faces and bodies of detained soldiers.

Testifying in the same court, Major Hüseyin Çakıroğlu, also accused of coup charges, said the emergency procedures at the base were attributed to a terror threat by his superiors. “It is simply impossible for commanders Aksakallı and Tatan to be not aware of the coup attempt. They did not tell us about it at all. We thought we were operating in a chain of command and did not leave our post,” he stated. He also testified that he was subjected to torture like other soldiers who were placed in detention.

Feb. 19, 2017

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