Dismissed from public service because he bought baby formula

A man identified only by the initials T.E. who was taken into police custody because he bought 120 containers of baby formula for his niece on the accusation of “providing medical supplies to a terrorist organization,” an accusation later dropped by authorities, was dismissed four years later from public service, partly on the same grounds, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

T.E., who lives in the eastern Turkish city of Van, which is largely populated by Kurds, is one of tens of thousands of civil servants dismissed from public service with emergency decree-laws following an abortive coup on July 15, 2016, as part of a post-coup purge carried out by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

T.E. was detained by police after he had bought 120 containers of baby formula in Van with a doctor’s prescription for his niece, and an investigation was launched into him on the charge of  wittingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization.”

According to the prosecutor’s report, T.E. was detained with four youngsters in the Edremit district of Van in a car upon an informant’s tip to the effect that they might be sending medical supplies to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union that has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The police intercepted the car and found 120 containers of formula in five boxes with a prescription duly signed by a medical doctor for T.E.’s niece, allowing him to purchase the baby formula.

The prosecutor dropped the charges, citing a lack of insufficient evidence and the fact that the formula was bought with a doctor’s prescription, terminating the investigation.

Yet, four years later, in 2017, T.E. was dismissed from his job at the Van Municipality based partly on this investigation file, a fact he learned when he appealed his dismissal to a government commission, the so-called OHAL (State of Emergency) Commission, established as an appeals body to review dismissals from the civil service.

Upon his appeal, the OHAL Commission requested information from the police and intelligence agency about him. The police told the commission he had provided medical supplies to the PKK, citing the baby formula incident. His appeal was turned down by the commission, which cited this investigation as among the reasons for its rejection.

Describing what happened as tragicomic, T.E. said: “I could not believe that such a thing could happen to me. What I bought was baby formula. I was handcuffed with a 16-year-old boy when we were stopped by the police despite the fact that we put up no resistance. We tried for a long time during our interrogation in the counter-terrorism unit to prove that what was in the boxes was baby formula. A police chief even said that it was formula and that his child ate the same food. They kept us in custody, all the same, constantly asking why we were taking the supplies to the PKK. We repeatedly explained that it was baby formula. What is funny is that the baby formula has followed me after all this time! After being dismissed, I learned with astonishment that this baby formula incident caused my dismissal. Indeed, the commission construed the formula as medical equipment and rejected my appeal, deciding that I had provided supplies to the terrorist organization.”

T.E. said he would take his case to an administrative court.

The OHAL Commission has been slammed by legal expertsrights groups and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as being unfit for the purpose of a reviewing body due to its lack of independence from executive control, protracted procedures, inadequate procedural safeguards and a flawed review process.

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