Torture chambers set up at an unofficial detention site in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara that were the subject of a Council of Europe (CoE) report in 2016 censored by Turkey were approved with the directives of investigating prosecutor Mustafa Manga, judicial papers obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
Manga’s name was revealed during court testimony provided by a gendarme who was subjected to torture and ill-treatment for days when he refused to sign a false statement under coercion by Manga. Frustrated with a lack of evidence, Manga personally ordered his bodyguards to point a gun at 1st Sgt. Fatih Karabağ, a 29-year-old intelligence officer who had investigated radical jihadist groups including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to force him to agree to the false statement in order to build a case the way he wanted. When threats in his office failed to convince the sergeant, Manga sent him to the torture site with special instructions to make him to talk and give a statement in line with the story line the prosecutor came up with.
“’I’m detaining you for 30 days. You will talk at the TEM [police counterterrorism building], anyway,’ he [Manga] said. Then he called a person whom I believe was a police chief in the TEM and said: ‘I’m sending you a person named Fatih Karabağ. Make him talk and keep him in custody for 30 days.’ So the police kicked me and punched me out of the room,” Karabağ told the court during a trial in which he was accused of involvement in a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. He denied the accusations and said he was ordered to go to the Gendarmerie General Command headquarters to provide security against a possible terrorist threat.
1st Sgt. Fatih Karabağ identified the investigating prosecutor as the man who ordered his torture at an unofficial detention site:fatih_karabag_torture
The meeting of Manga and the victim took place in a room at Gendarmerie General Command headquarters where Manga set up a temporary office to investigate events at the building during a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. When Karabağ was brought to Manga’s office in handcuffs, the prosecutor ordered everyone to get out of the room except his two guards and his clerk, Erkan Ildemli.
“The prosecutor showed me photos [from clashes on the night of the coup attempt] and started shouting, ‘You did this.’ I said, ‘Mr. Prosecutor, I didn’t kill anyone,’ and I told the prosecutor about what I had been through exactly the way it happened. Then he started shouting more. He put me in the chair across from his desk. Your Honor, the clerk was to the right of the prosecutor, and a bearded, dark-skinned policeman, some 25 or 30 years old holding an MP5 with two magazines taped to each other was on his left. In the chair next to me, a grey-haired, light bearded, 30 to 40-year-old police officer holding a Kalashnikov was sitting,” he said.
Manga yelled at him again and asked him to talk about what he had experienced once more. When Karabağ repeated what he had already told him before, the prosecutor angrily intervened and said, “Not that.” He shouted at Karabağ and said he was getting bored. Then the prosecutor ordered his guards to make their guns ready to shoot him upon his order. “The police took off the safeties, the younger cop took aim at me with the MP5, Your Honor. The other cop put the barrel of the Kalashnikov in my abdominal area, waiting for orders from the prosecutor to shoot,” Karabağ testified as he portrayed the dramatic scene at the prosecutor’s makeshift office in the military building.
Witnesses’ statement that confirmed evidence tampering in the coup case:CCTV_Tampering_Gendarmerie
Fearing that he would be shot, Karabağ didn’t move a muscle but made clear that he wouldn’t give a statement under those threatening conditions. Manga kept shouting at him and saying that he had no rights under a state of emergency that had been declared by the government. Then the prosecutor opened the door to his office and told the policeman waiting outside, ‘Bring me one of our lawyers, and I will take his statement.”
“I repeated that I would not make a statement under those conditions. Then he asked if I was married. I said I was single. He said, ‘Who is your roommate?’ I told him I was staying with my school buddy Bekir. Then he told the police and gendarmes outside, ‘Bring him [Bekir] in’.”
Manga then came back to Karabağ and said he would be put in detention for 30 days during which the police at the TEM unit would make him talk. He called a police chief on the phone and told him he was sending Karabağ to the unofficial detention site, which was set up in a sports hall in the basement of the TEM building. Outside the prosecutor’s office, he was beaten and kicked for an hour, forced to crouch down facing the wall.
The record in the case file prepared by Manga and signed by his clerk and a police officer identified only by his badge number confirmed that the meeting took place on July 25, 2016. It was clear from the document that no lawyer was present during the meeting, in clear violation of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMUK). In what appears to be an attempt to save himself from possible legal troubles in the future on criminal charges including abuse of authority, Manga titled the encounter with Karabağ a “preliminary meeting.” The prosecutor did not mention the alleged threats he leveled at him during the meeting and did not record the phone call he allegedly made. Manga claimed that Karabağ admitted connections to the Gülen movement — a group that is critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt, although the movement strongly denies any involvement — and included some names with no last names mentioned. Then he went on to say that Karabağ changed his mind and refused to give a statement.
An hour later he was taken to a TEM building where he was put in an underground room. A police chief threatened to kill him if he did not talk as Manga had instructed on the phone. Karabağ tried to explain what happened one more time and said he was deployed to respond to a terrorist threat, but the police chief shouted at him and said, “The statement you gave is useless for the prosecutor and the judge.” The police chief then started hitting him in the back with his elbows and kept banging his head on the wall. The other two police officers in the room began kicking him at the same time. The police chief gave him a day to say what the prosecutor wanted and put him in the unofficial detention site in the sports hall, where more than 500 half-naked men and women were kept in agony from abuse and torture inflicted by their captors.
Prosecutor Manga reported on the meeting with intelligence officer Fatih Karabağ but did not disclose the fact that he threatened him and sent him to a torture site:Manga_preliminary_meeting_record
“A day later, the same police chief and his deputy took me back to one of the interrogation rooms and told me he wouldn’t punch me this time because his wrist hurt from beating so many people,” Karabağ said. Instead, the police chief slapped him in the face and asked the same questions again. He tried to tell the police what he had been through when he was summoned to secure the headquarters against a terror threat, but the police weren’t listening. At one point the police chief told him that nobody would hold him accountable for the torture as the restoration of the rule of law would take at least 50 years and by that time he would be dead, anyway.
Karabağ was supposed to stay in the detention hall for 30 days, but the international attention on growing allegations of torture in Turkey prompted both the United Nations and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe (CoE) to organize an ad hoc fact-finding mission to visit to Turkey. Panicked over possible fallout from the revelations, the authorities held a coordination meeting on August 1, 2016 in the Ministry of Justice to come up with a solution on how to weather the storm of criticism and ordered the closure of unofficial detention sites. Karabağ was rushed to court for arraignment on August 1 and was formally arrested by the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace .
An official document that was leaked to the press at the time revealed how the government was concerned about the fact-finding visit by the CPT between August 28 and September 6, 2016 and ordered police to stop using unofficial detention centers such as sports halls. The National Police Department sent a confidential letter to police units in all 81 provinces instructing them to hide the traces of torture in all detention centers ahead of the official inspection by the CPT delegation.
The sports hall in the TEM building was turned into an unofficial detention site in the aftermath of the failed coup, and accounts of torture including rape were reported by multiple victims who were kept there with a complete disregard for the right to due process. Victims were denied the right to see a lawyer and deprived food and water for days. Doctors were threatened to not report abuse and torture during medical checkups, although some managed to mention evidence of torture in some reports.
Secret Turkish government letter ordering prisons and detention facilities to cover up evidence of torture ahead of a visit by a CPT delegation:CPT_visit_warning
FORGED MEDICAL REPORTS, WIPED OUT VIDEO RECORDINGS
In Karabağ’s case, it was clear that the medical reports were doctored, with no indication that he suffered from torture and abuse appearing in multiple documents. In fact the police were so sloppy that they had a medical report issued for him on July 18, purportedly signed by a Dr. Mithat Uysal at 21:36 hours, when Karabağ was still working at the general command and was not detained until the evening of July 25. Other reports appeared to have been filled in after the fact just to create the perception that due process had been followed.
The doctored medical reports in the case file were also confirmed by multiple victim statements which revealed during court hearings that doctors at unofficial detention sites were randomly filling out blank medical reports, changing actual dates and reporting no sign of torture or abuse under pressure from the police. Some of the reports filed on Karabağ such as notification to his next of kin about his detention were completely empty except for his name, suggesting that the police did not even bother filling in the blanks in the rest of the document.
Doctored medical report on Fatih Karabağ:Fatih_Karabag_forged_medical_report
Karabağ was summoned to Gendarmerie General Command headquarters by his commanding officer when an alert about a possible terrorist attack was circulated in military communication channels. He went there with his colleagues, and they started taking positions to guard the headquarters during the night. But chaos followed when people started gathering in front of the headquarters and police snipers began shooting at them from a nearby high-rise building. He left his post to go home, only to be recalled later to the base. He kept working with his commanders until July 25.
He had a chance to see how the authorities suppressed evidence such as wiping out some of the critical CCTV recordings that would have exposed the torture and murders by fire coming from outside the headquarters and shed light on what really happened at the Gendarmerie headquarters. He also witnessed how a senior general pinned the blame for the coup attempt on unsuspecting officers by drafting fabricated reports. He testified under oath that he had worked with Brig. Gen. Ahmet Hacıoğlu for several days before he was detained and told the judges of the Ankara 23rd High Criminal Court on December 13, 2017 how Hacıoğlu fabricated evidence and made up a list of alleged coup plotters.
Prosecutor Manga ordered the collection of CCTV recordings only after some of the footage had been wiped out:Prosecutor_Manga_order
Karabağ said he was with Hacıoğlu watching videos recorded in the command headquarters and that Hacıoğlu instructed the deletion of some of the footage. He was ordered to put his signature on documents without having a chance to go over them. Irfan Algel, a technician who was responsible for the camera room for the CCTV surveillance system in the headquarters, also testified on November 15, 2018, admitting that he was ordered not to tell anybody what he saw after he had worked on the recordings for three or four days after July 15 without any written authorization from judicial authorities.
The statements highlighted the fact that Hacıoğlu had worked with Manga in suppressing critical evidence that would have shed light on what happened at the headquarters and scapegoating officers who appear to have had nothing to do with the coup attempt. The paper trail in the case file shows that Manga deliberately waited days to order the collection of evidence until Hacıoğlu and his men had completed cleaning up the crime scene at the headquarters and the deletion of some video recordings as part of their evidence suppression. The document dated July 21, 2016 indicated that Manga had issued orders for evidence collection on that day, six days after the coup attempt, when he was supposed to secure the crime scene at the headquarters and order the collection of evidence right away in line with the Code on Criminal Procedure.
The report revealed how some of the recordings were damaged:Report_Damaged_CCTV_Gendarmerie
Another document that bears Manga’s signature indicated that he also waited until August 2, 2016 to order the collection of CCTV recordings from private businesses and residential buildings that overlook the Gendarme General Command headquarters. The document dated August 3 and signed by Manga and several officials concluded that the CCTV cameras in the surrounding buildings only go back two weeks and that it was not possible to retrieve recordings from the day of the coup. During the trial proceedings, the defense challenged these assessments and found it bizarre that Manga waited so long for the collection of recordings and accused him of dereliction of duty as the investigating prosecutor who could have sent the hard drives for retrieval of the erased footage by forensic examiners at the police lab.
Multiple witnesses came forward during the trial proceedings testifying that police snipers extra-judicially killed military officers who were unarmed and cooperating with the police at the Gendarmerie General Command on July 16. Some of the torture and abuse took place within view of CCTV cameras under orders by Hacıoğlu. Authorities tampered with the recordings to make the evidence go away, the defense claimed.
The report which stated that most CCTV recordings from nearby locations could not be retrieved, allegedly because of a two-week time lapse:Prosecutor_Manga_no_recording_document
Several reports written by a commission of military experts set up at the general headquarters concluded that the police actually destroyed some video cameras that recorded events in the areas where the murders and torture at the headquarters took place. In court, many victims filed motions with the panel of judges asking them to issue orders to retrieve the missing footage, but to no avail. A document dated July 22, 2016 that assessed the damage to the security camera network determined that 23 cameras in the building were destroyed during and after the clashes.
IMPUNITY FOR TORTURERS
Torturers in Turkey were protected by a government decree issued by President Erdoğan that provided blanket immunity for officials who were involved in coup investigations. Decree-law No. 667, issued by the government on July 23, 2016, granted sweeping protection for law enforcement officers in order to prevent victims from pressing complaints of torture, ill treatment or abuse against officials. There were multiple cases in which Turkish prosecutors refused to investigate torture allegations, citing this decree-law, or KHK (Kanun Hükmünde Kararname).
Article 9 of this KHK stated that “Legal, administrative, financial and criminal liabilities shall not arise in respect of the persons who have adopted decisions and fulfill their duties within the scope of this decree-law.” The decree was criticized by human rights organizations for being a clear breach of articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party, yet it was never annulled. In fact, the Turkish parliament passed the decree into law on October 18, 2016.
As of today, no prosecution has been initiated against people who tortured detainees at the unofficial site despite multiple complaints filed by the victims and their lawyers.
A delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), a Council of Europe-affiliated body, was in Turkey to conduct inspections between August 28 and September 6, 2016 and recorded some of the victims’ statements in its report. The delegation’s visit came amid widespread allegations first raised by Amnesty International, which stated that it had collected credible evidence that detainees in Turkey were beaten, tortured and on some occasions raped in official and unofficial detention centers across the country.
However, the details of the CPT report were never made public because Turkey vetoed the publication of the report and has not lifted its objection since 2016. In fact CPT President Mykola Gnatovskyy stated in 2017 that even though he “[wanted] to discuss the findings,” he could not comment on the report due to Ankara’s decision.
Eight medical reports on the health and well-being of Fatih Karabağ were filled out late, apparently as part of an attempt to hide torture and abuse:Fatih_Karabag_medical_reports