HRW calls for investigation into death of Kurd allegedly thrown from Turkish helicopter

In a statement released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Turkish authorities to investigate the case of a Kurdish man who died the day before after being detained earlier by government security forces and leaded into a helicopter before it took flight.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In a statement released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Turkish authorities to investigate the case of a Kurdish man who died the day before after being detained earlier by government security forces and loaded into a helicopter before it took flight.   

Servet Turgut, 55, and Osman Siban, 50, were hospitalized two hours after being arrested by the Turkish army. A medical report attributed the fatal injuries of Turgut to an “unspecified fall” and the injuries of Siban to a “fall from a high location/fall from a helicopter.” 

Şiban was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 20, but Turgot remained in medical care until his death.

Doctors told HRW that the two men were barely conscious on admission to the hospital and were brought in with military personnel in attendance.

The governor’s office in the eastern Kurdish-majority province of Van claimed on Sept. 21 that Turgut fell “from a rocky place” after resisting arrest but it made no mention of Şiban’s injuries. It also accused the two of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is fighting a decades-long insurgency against Ankara for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey. 

Turgut’s family told HRW that, on Sept. 11, their family member was working on his farm in the Surik hamlet of Çığlıca village, located in Beytüşşebap district, when a nearby clash between Turkish soldiers and the PKK resulted in the death of three soldiers and one member of the guerrilla group.

The family alleges that military officers detained Turgut and took him to a central area of the village, where every male resident was made to kneel down while the soldiers checked their identifications. Military officers then asked villagers to identify Turgut since he had no identity documents in his possession. They also asked the residents who Osman Şiban was.

Witnesses said that military officers shouted, “We are in pain. Who will we take it out on, if not you? We are going to burn your village down.” The villagers assumed the soldiers were referring acts of retribution in response to the soldiers’ deaths at the hands of the PKK.

The security forces then took Şiban and Turgut away in a helicopter.

Later, their families learned that the two men were in an intensive care unit in a state hospital in Van after threatening to inform the media after the army refused to reveal the fate of the two men.

“The Turkish authorities have an obligation to promptly, effectively, and transparently investigate how Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban were so seriously injured in the custody of security forces, and ultimately how Turgut died,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director. 

“The authorities’ highly unconvincing explanation that Turgut fell from a rocky place before his arrest flies in the face of statements by witnesses, who saw both men being arrested and taken away healthy in a helicopter.”

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement on Wednesday that such human right violations are not perpetrated by “some unruly elements within the state bureaucracy and the army.”

“In fact, these cases of torture and murder reveal the very racist, militaristic and totally unlawful character of ‘the new Turkish state’ in Kurdish provinces,” charged HDP co-spokespersons Feleknas Uca and Hisyar Ozsoy.

“They show us the fact that ‘Turkish security forces’ can kill the Kurds wherever and whenever they want and with total impunity.”

Later on Thursday night following the HRW press release, reports surfaced that lawyers had confirmed a new Turkish court order had been made completely banning domestic news coverage of any investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Editing by John J. Catherine