Family members of victims killed by the Yüksekova gang in eastern and southeastern Turkey in the 1990s have said the probe into the Ergenekon terrorist organization will not be complete if the prosecutors overseeing the investigation fail to shed light on deaths at the hands of the gang.
Civilian prosecutors have investigated Ergenekon, a clandestine terrorist organization nested within the state bureaucracy, since 2007. The organization is believed to have been assisted by a large number of people, including those from the military, academia and the business world. Prosecutors believe the organization is responsible for many murders and other shady incidents that have shaken society in past years. The main objective of the organization is to unseat democratically elected governments and enable the military to seize control of the country.
The Yüksekova gang is accused of killing 16 individuals, but the case's statute of limitations will expire on Aug. 27. Family members of the gang's victims believe that Ergenekon prosecutors should immediately take legal action against the gang as letting its members go unpunished would make the case against Ergenekon incomplete
“The Ergenekon investigation has boosted our hopes. For the investigation to be complete, prosecutors should also probe the organization's leg in eastern and southeastern Turkey.
If Ergenekon prosecutors deepen their investigation and work on unsolved murders in eastern and southeastern Turkey, they will see the realities in the regions. But if they fail to do so, only 1 percent of the crimes committed by the terrorist organization will be revealed,” stated Teyyüp Canan, the son of Abdullah Canan, who is believed to have been killed by the Yüksekova gang in 1996.
The Yüksekova gang was an illegal organization formed in the Yüksekova district of Hakkari, which smuggled drugs and weapons. It was headed by three high-ranking military officers and various politicians. The gang’s activities were first revealed in 1996. Its exposure led to JİTEM’s -- an illegal intelligence unit inside the gendarmerie which has been held responsible for many murders in the East and Southeast in the 1990s -- name to be mentioned in the court records for the first time.
The family members of victims of the Yüksekova gang believe prosecutors should take immediate action into the shady activities of the gang as the case against it will reach the statute of limitations on Aug. 27. The gang is accused of killing 16 people. Several of its members were initially sentenced to a total of 553 years in jail but were released from prison after controversial court decisions.
The European Court of Human Rights fined Turkey 103,000 euros for its decisions relating to the Yüksekova gang.
“The culprits were not sentenced in Turkey because they are protected by authorities. My father was killed after heavy torture. That was brutality,” Canan noted.
Abdullah Canan filed a criminal lawsuit against Maj. Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, head of the Yüksekova Commando Brigade, in January 1996, arguing that his house was damaged in military operations in the district. Canan was forced to withdraw his complaint, but he did not agree. On Jan. 17, his body was found on a roadside. He was shot several times after being heavily tortured. Eyewitnesses said they saw Canan in the doctor’s room of the brigade with a compression bandage around his head, four days before his body was discovered. Maj. Yurdakul appeared before the judge on charges of killing Canan, but he was acquitted by the Hakkari High Criminal Court.
‘They would kill me, claiming I am a PKK member’
Necip Baskın, who was allegedly kidnapped by village guards in September 1996, said he was almost murdered by security forces on the grounds that he was a member of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
On Sept. 21, a group of village guards dressed in clothes used by PKK terrorists arrived in Baskın’s village. They kidnapped Baskın and took him to the district police station with his eyes blindfolded. Baskın’s father, Tahir, immediately went to the gendarmerie command in Yüksekova and told officers that his son had been kidnapped. Upon which police officers -- though reluctantly -- released Baskın.
According to Baskın, police officers were planning to dress him in PKK clothes and then kill him. In this way they would claim that Baskın, a terrorist, was killed in clashes with security forces.
He also said the Yüksekova gang was not a “simple” one as it was more organized than many other illegal groups. He said the activities of the gang were very similar to those planned by a shady organization in the eastern province of Erzincan.
Ergenekon prosecutors recently revealed that an arm of Ergenekon in Erzincan was working to put into operation a subversive plan in the city. According to the document, called the “Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism,” religious groups and communities in Erzincan would be accused of terror charges after weapons and explosives were planted in the homes of their followers.
“They wrote a scenario and put it into operation. They were planning to accuse innocent people of various crimes. They were hoping to do it for the country, nation, the secular order and the republic,” said Baskın, unable to hide his astonishment.
‘We witnessed Ergenekon in Yüksekova 15 years ago’
Teyyüp Canan said that his family first came across Ergenekon when they were striving to pursue the trial of military members accused of killing his father.
“They tried every way to prevent us from going to the courthouse. We were made to wait for several hours at the checkpoint while other people were allowed to pass immediately. We met many people who said they would find my father. But they disappeared after they took money from us. The suspects were able to take a copy of our testimony [from the prosecutors]. In this way, they were able to testify to refute our claims. The chief prosecutor was not able to interrogate a sergeant or captain. We were not informed of the court’s decisions. In short, they tried every way to acquit the culprits,” he noted.
According to Canan, the Yüksekova gang laid the foundation for the Ergenekon terrorist organization. Esat Dara, a relative of Sabri Çardakçıoğlu who was reportedly killed by the Yüksekova gang, said the murders were the work of an organized group rather than a simple gang. He believes the state could have exposed the perpetrators of unsolved murders long ago if it had wanted to do.
“The long silence of the state [about unsolved murders] has increased suspicions. It requires courage to take a man from his house and family in the middle of the night and kill him. We want the state to shed light on the unsolved murders. I believe the state is turning a blind eye to those murders. It can expose their perpetrators in a month if it wishes. But I am still hopeful. The murderers will be exposed just like Ergenekon was,” Dara added.