Operatives from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) for days tortured a lieutenant colonel who had worked for NATO’s intelligence section and was educated in the United States with electric shocks in an unknown location in 2016, documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
Lt. Col. Ersoy Öz, who was appointed commander of the Turkish military brigade deployed to Qatar in May 2016, was picked up by MIT agents near an airbase in Ankara in July 2016 and brought to a secret location and subjected to torture. He was handed over to the counterterrorism unit for formal processing at a police station in Ankara’s Yenimahalle district, where MIT headquarters are located. The torture continued at the police station as well, according to the documents.
It appears Öz was flagged by MIT because of his record, which showed him working as an intelligence planning officer at NATO military headquarters between 2010 and 2013 and pursuing graduate studies in California from 2002 to 2004. He worked for the Directorate of Operations at the General Staff until May 2016, when he received the new overseas assignment. MIT’s targeting of Öz fits the pattern of a profiling campaign conducted by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who purged and jailed most pro-Western officers who had undertaken various assignments in the NATO military alliance in the past.
Forty-two-year-old Öz had attended preparatory and intelligence courses in Ankara after he was assigned as a commander in the Qatar mission on May 13, 2016. A Turkish military document shows him enrolled in classes between July 10 and 15, 2016 while Turkey was moving to set up a base in Doha. He had a regular dental checkup and visited the General Staff on the afternoon of July 15, 2016 to complete final procedures for his departure and to help familiarize his successor at headquarters, Maj. Atamer Erkal, with the task he was about to undertake. He arrived in his own car, was in civilian clothes and was not even carrying a firearm.
Yet, he was stranded there when General Staff headquarters were reported to have come under a terrorist attack, which later turned out to be part of a limited mobilization in a coup attempt, which many believe was a false flag operation. Doğan Öztürk, a staff colonel at headquarters, said the General Staff received credible intelligence that prompted emergency precautionary measures and asked Öz to help protect the building against a terror attack. He would have left if he had not seen Öztürk at lunch and was not asked to remain there for a while. The still shots from CCTV footage show he had been in and out of the building, helping secure the perimeter when a crowd of the people tried to storm the headquarters. He was not involved in any putschist action.
When choppers were deployed to pick up commanders from headquarters, Öz was also ordered to accompany them. He and many others were taken to Akıncı Airbase in Ankara, from where Öz managed to escape when he sensed something was awfully wrong in the early hours of July 16. Shortly afterwards, he was kidnapped by intelligence officers outside the base. In a handwritten petition filed with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on August 23, 2016, Öz recounted the terrible ordeal he had endured at the hands of what he said were MIT agents. He said intelligence officers handcuffed and blindfolded him and put him in in a special room designed to prevent sounds from being heard outside its walls. He was severely beaten and tortured with electric shocks, interrogated and issued death threats in the room.
Petition filed by Ersoy Öz with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office:ersoyoz2
Following the interrogation by Turkish intelligence, he was first handed over to the police in Ankara’s Kazan district and then transferred to the police station in Yenimahalle. During the interrogation under police custody, Öz was beaten with rifle butts, verbally abused and threatened. In the petition, Öz retracted his statement to the police since he was forced to give it under duress and was not allowed to read it. The police added claims to his statement that he never made, according to him. Turkish authorities failed to respond to his repeated requests to provide new testimony after he was put in prison.
Following the coup attempt, many military personnel were kept in unofficial holding centers, such as a sports hall at the Ankara police headquarters and riding club stables in the city. Up to 800 soldiers were held in one gymnasium in Ankara, and at least 300 showed signs of having been beaten, with bruises, cuts or broken bones, Amnesty International reported. The Stockholm Center for Freedom also exposed how detained military officers were subjected to beatings, torture and rape in official and unofficial detention centers in Turkey in 2016.
Turkish lawyer Hasan Egemen Mağat, representing Öz, also filed a petition with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeking a judicial investigation into the torture of Öz in an unofficial location. In his petition Mağat claimed that his client Öz was severely beaten and tortured for three days with electric shocks.
The petition noted that Öz was detained on July 16 by by people who claimed to be police officers and who put a hood on his head and was taken to an unknown location where he was interrogated. The kidnappers handed him over to the Kazan chief of police, identified only by his first name, Murat. He was later taken to the Ankara Police Department and and sent to the Sincan High Security Prison outside Ankara on July 19 upon decision no. 2016/425 of the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace.
The lawyer said the people who tortured his client later claimed to be from the General Staff intelligence section, but he said his client suspected them to be members of MIT. In his own petition Lt. Col. Öz also underlined that he recognized the kidnappers as MIT agents from the way they spoke, and ruled out the claim that they were working for the General Staff.
Petition filed by lawyer Hasan Egemen Mağat with the General Staff:ersoyoz1
What is more, the Turkish lawyer underlined that he had himself had seen traces on Öz’s body that were consistent with having been subjected to ill treatment and torture. The marks of torture were visible on the colonel’s shoulders, back, legs and genitals. In a complaint filed with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on October 18, 2016, Mağat said the evidence of torture was still visible on his client’s body, three months after the fact, and lamented that no through medical examination had been conducted to investigate the claims, asking the prosecutor to look into the allegations.
Despite the fact that Öz exhibited extensive evidence of injuries sustained in the detention center and at the Ankara Police Department, doctors were intimidated into not including the indications of torture in his medical check-ups.
In his investigation case file, there is only one medical examination report that was issued on July 19, 2016 by Ömer Faruk Türkoğlu, a doctor in the neurosurgery department at Ankara Gazi Mustafa Kemal Hospital. The doctor did not include a note stating that there were no traces of torture or ill treatment, which is unusual in such examinations. Medical examinations are required as part of the Code on Criminal Procedure to ensure detainees are not subjected to torture. The doctors are required to make a record of any abuse or complaint by the detainee or simply state that there was no indication of torture if none was found. In this case the doctor simply wrote that “there were no additional findings,” which sounds odd given the fact that no prior medical report was included in the file reviewed by Nordic Monitor.
Medical report that omitted the marks of torture:ersoyoz3
The one-page medical report appears to have been hastily completed as most blanks were not even filled out. The names of the sending authority, the police officers who accompanied the suspect during the hospital visit, the reason for the medical examination, the incident that prompted the examination and the past medical record of the suspect were all left empty. The report is not given a registration number, which is crucial for a paper trail. The specific section allocated for the processing of detainees and investigation of cases of alleged human rights violations was completely skipped by the doctor.
Mağat also filed another petition with the General Staff requesting CCTV footage from inside and outside of the General Staff headquarters and additional documents that would reveal the reason behind Öz’s presence at headquarters on July 15.
Petition filed by lawyer Hasan Egemen Mağat with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office:ersoyoz4
In a crackdown following the coup attempt in Turkey, around 140,000 civil servants including military members were purged from their jobs through emergency decrees and without any effective judicial or administrative investigation. The official figures show that President Erdoğan’s government has put over half a million innocent people in detention facilities in the last three years alone on dubious terrorism charges
After the coup attempt, the government declared a state of emergency and issued decrees removing crucial safeguards protecting detainees from ill treatment and torture. Turkish authorities didn’t hesitate to conduct a systematic and deliberate campaign of torture and ill treatment of detainees and prisoners in such an atmosphere. Since 2016, at least 75 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides have taken place either in detention centers or prisons.
Three weeks after the coup attempt, Amnesty International Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner exposed credible evidence of detainees suffering abuse and torture. “Ahead of the coup we were already receiving very serious reports of torture and ill-treatment, mostly in the southeast of Turkey,” he said. “But what we saw after the violent coup attempt of July 15 was an explosion in the number of cases.”
Similarly, the UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a 2018 report that torture and other forms of ill treatment became widespread, particularly immediately following the arrest of suspects.
Several human rights organizations and agencies have also shed light on torture allegations in the aforementioned unofficial centers and the extensive ill treatment of detainees and prisoners in general. For instance, Amnesty International asked the Turkish government on July 22, 2016 to allow independent monitors access to detainees amid torture allegations. Captured military officers were raped and hundreds of soldiers beaten by police; some detainees were denied food, water and access to lawyers for days; and many detainees were handcuffed from behind with plastic zip ties and forced to kneel for hours, according to credible evidence gathered by Amnesty International, which stated that independent monitors must be allowed access to the detainees.
Öz was sentenced to life in prison on June 20, 2019 after three years of pretrial detention based on dubious coup charges. His allegations of torture were never investigated.