Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, or MİT) operated a secret rendition flight and initiated a torture session on the spy plane when it abducted a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from Kazakhstan and later subjected the victim to further torture and abuse at a black site near the airport in Ankara, court documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
Testifying at the Kocaeli 5th High Criminal Court on April 3, 2018, Zabit Kişi, 48-year-old primary school teacher, told the judges how he was beaten on the plane during the three-hour flight from Almaty to Ankara after his abduction. The agents started hitting him on the head and in the 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 MIT team checked to make sure he still had a pulse.
The schoolteacher’s underwear was soaked in blood on the plane from the kicks to his genitals. For days, he saw blood in his urine because of the beating. When the plane landed, he was taken to the intelligence agency’s black site near Ankara Esenboğa Airport and put in a small container for 108 days during which time he was subjected to torture, sexual abuse and other abusive treatment.
The teacher took his family to Kyrgyzstan where he had worked in the past with the hope of landing a job after he became unemployed in Turkey in December 2015. A government crackdown on schools run by business people close to the Gülen movement, a group that is highly critical of President Erdoğan, left him desperate to look for a job abroad. He and his family boarded a plane to Bishkek from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport.
In his absence the authorities issued arrest warrant for him after a failed coup on July 15, 2016 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. The MIT team forcibly removed him from the airport and put him on a plane he described as painted with a camouflage pattern. His description suggests the plane was most likely one of nine Casa CN-235 transport planes operated by the Turkish Air Force and apparently loaned to the intelligence agency for the abduction.
A minivan picked him up after landing at the airport, and he was driven to a torture site about a five-minute ride from the airport. He was thrown into 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.
The court transcripts show that presiding judge Yusuf Sevimli was not happy with what he heard during the hearing and pressed the defendant to focus on his defense rather than the torture and abuse he sustained at the hands of the MIT agents. Prevented from describing his ordeal in full in court, Kişi later wrote an eight-page letter, on July 12, 2018, detailing how he endured torture for 108 days. He also filed multiple criminal complaints with the prosecutor’s office and the court demanding the punishment of the agents who tortured him. The letter, first published by Bold Medya, shows his pleas fell on deaf ears and that Turkish authorities failed to take any action.
During his captivity, Kişi’s torturers told him to accept the false confession they had prepared and warned that the torture would otherwise continue until he was dead. “During the torture sessions, they said: ‘We are the judge and prosecutor here. There is no lawyer and no police. You can only get out of here by accepting what we are telling you’,” Kişi wrote in his letter. He was not allowed to bathe for months. When his body started to smell, the MIT agents eventually allowed him to take a shower. But the abuse went on even when he was bathing. His torturers sexually abused him while he was in the shower and left him naked in the cold for some time.
Zabit Kişi, a Turkish teacher abducted from Kazakhstan and tortured at a black site in Ankara.“As if the torture were not enough, they even threatened to harm my wife and children abroad, saying they would hire some people, turn them [his family members] into prostitutes, kidnap them and put them through the same ordeal as me,” he wrote. The torturers also threatened him with inflicting harm on his 75-year-old parents who still lived in Turkey.
Kişi was not the only person at the intelligence’s black site. “During the times when they stopped torturing me, I could hear the cries of people who were being tortured and crippled in other cells,” he recalled.
Although he already had health problems before his abduction, the MIT agents did not bother listening his complaints of medical problems and in fact enjoyed it even more as his pain worsened because of his prior medical complications. He told his torturers repeatedly that he had undergone surgery for langerhans cell histiocytosis, had gone through chemotherapy, had avascular necrosis of the femoral head and an abrasion on his knees and suffered from pneumothorax. All his pleas fell on deaf ears. He lost 30 kilograms while in captivity.
Apparently satisfied with their brutal work that broke the victim and forced him to go along with the fabricated story, the MIT agents eventually decided to hand him over to the police but did not want any paper trail. Blindfolded and hooded, he was handed over to the police in front of the Ankara Courthouse at 19:20 hours on January 18, 2018. Gürhan Murat Tekin, the prosecutor on night duty, ordered the police to take his statement, and he was processed as if he had shown up on his own to turn himself in and confess his alleged crimes. He spent 12 days in police custody under the watch of police counterterrorism chief Ibrahim Bozkurt and his team — Selim Ejder Gül, Onur Sağlam, Oben Özay and Özkan Savaş.
Under threats and pressure, Kişi had to sign the statement dictated by the police on January 30, 2018. At a court hearing in April, his lawyer, Murat Altun, said he was present when his client signed the statement and noticed that previously written notes were dictated as his statement. When he asked what was going on, his client told him that his life was in danger and that he had to sign whatever was presented by the police.
At his court hearing, Kişi recanted all his statements taken under torture and filed multiple complaints against his abusers. None of his complaints were processed by Turkish authorities, who had apparently adopted a systematic and deliberate policy of torture and abuse for political detainees.
Although Turkish authorities refused to acknowledge Kişi’s abduction from Kazakhstan, his lawyer presented documents to the court showing that the Kazakh government officially admitted that Kişi was sent to Ankara on September 30, 2017.
The contents listed in the police search and seizure record when Kişi was processed at the police station on January 1, 2018 also verified that he was brought from Kazakhstan. The record listed a piece of carry-on luggage with clothes, a phone, an Amazon Kindle tablet and his passport as well as 30,500 tenge, the currency of Kazakhstan, in various denominations and $500 in hundred dollar bills.
At the end of sham trial, Kişi was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison on coup charges. He is one of some 100 Gülen-linked Turkish nationals were brought back to Turkey through extrajudicial renditions carried out by Turkey’s intelligence service.