For nearly three months, the family of Naim Öztürk, a 27-year-old Kurdish man who had travelled to Subatica in Serbia from Turkey, were unable to get word from him. The family claims that the young man was killed and thrown into the Tisza River by a human trafficking organisation in Serbia, Mezopotamya News Agency reports. The family also asserts that the young man was carried in the boot of a car and thrown into the river gagged, with his hands and feet bound.
Naim Öztürk is from the Varto district of Muş province in eastern Turkey. On 19 November 2021 he travelled to Bosnia by plane, and then on to Subotica in Serbia. The family claims that Öztürk stayed in the Casa Simon hotel in Subotica on 21 November and there met with a man by the name of Mustafa Özgül, who was to arrange for Hanife Yücel, the leader of the people smuggling ring, to have him smuggled to Germany in return for 15,000 Euros. There was another man in the hotel room by the name of Yunus Akkoyun, whom it is alleged was also linked to the people smugglers. The family says that Mustafa Özgül had left the hotel saying he was going to give the money to Hanife Yücel, and that he was leaving Naim Öztürk with Yunus Akkoyun as ‘security’. However, Özgül never returned to the hotel. WhatsApp messages between Akkoyun and Özgül reveal that Akkoyun told Özgül that he was holding Öztürk hostage.
Asked for help from brother
Naim’s brother Gıyasettin Öztürk says that Naim called him that night. He says that Akkoyun spoke to him and demanded the 15,000 Euros. The next day, 22 November, Gıyasettin Öztürk applied to the Turkish Consulate in Serbia about his brother.
Gıyasettin Öztürk relates what has happened that night as follows: “Everything happened on that same night. I talked to Yunus (Yunus Akkoyun) three times. He demanded the money. He hung up on me twice. He gave me the wrong name for the hotel. I told him I would bring them the money that Özgül had taken, but they didn’t listen to me. They didn’t give me a chance. They threw my brother into the river because of Özgül. I have been in Serbia now for two months. I had found each one of them. I have learned their real names. I have lodged a criminal complaint here. I have also retained a lawyer. However they are not really helping me. They are acting slowly on purpose. There is still no progress in the case.”
Turkish consulate not helping
Öztürk states that to date no effort has been made to find his brother, and that even the Turkish state and the consulate have not helped. He says that he went to the consulate but they told him, “Our job here is only to issue identity cards and other documents.” Öztürk claims that members of the human smuggling gang still live in Serbia and that they continue transporting people who want to go to Europe from Turkey through Serbia. He adds that a company has been set up by the name of Amed Group, which sends invitations to people in Turkey and this is how people are brought to Serbia.
In a statement taken at the Federal Police Department in Kiel, Germany, Yunus Akkoyun confirmed that Öztürk was thrown to the Tisza river and drowned. In his testimony he stated that gang members Süleyman Başıbüyük and Reşit Akyapı had beaten Naim Öztürk up, then tied his hands and feet and gagged him. Öztürk was then put in the boot of a grey Audi sedan and thrown into the Tisza river. Akkoyun claimed in this statement that he did not cooperate with Başıbüyük and Akyapı, and tried to prevent the murder, but that he was also threatened with death.