A villager from Turkey’s Kurdish-majority province of Van (Wan) who had reportedly been beaten almost to death by a gang of soldiers after he was pushed out of a helicopter to be beaten by dozens of Turkish soldiers now faces court on charges of ‘being a member of a terrorist organisation’ six months after he himself had filed a criminal complaint against the Turkish soldiers for torturing him.
Osman Şiban, a villager living in Van’s district of Çatak, was arrested alongside a fellow villager, Servet Turgut, by soldiers during a military operation on 11 September 2020. After the two were put onto a military helicopter, they were not heard of until they appeared in a hospital in the city of Van two days later.
Mezopotamya News Agency released the photos of Osman Şiban, with marks indicating heavy severe torture, on 17 September 2020. Servet Turgut died after 17 days of treatment in the intensive care unit on 30 September.
Şiban remained in a coma for weeks.
Ahmet Şık, a prominent journalist and an MP for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) at the time, had prepared a report on the incident and presented it at a press conference at the Turkish parliament in November 2020. The report was based on the testimonies of the villagers and Osman Şiban’s own statements as he detailed the incident to Ahmet Şık, for the first time on 27 October.
According to the report, Osman Şiban, a 50-year-old villager with eight children, and Servet Turgut, a 63-year-old villager with seven children and three grandchildren, were arrested after armed clashes occurred in the region between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish fighters that left three combatants from each side dead.
Şiban had told Şık that the soldiers had started beating both of them before they were taken into the helicopter and that the beating continued, intensifying, inside the helicopter.
But it was later, after they were pushed out of the helicopter, that the brutal racist attack by dozens of soldiers began.
“The helicopter landed, and all the soldiers got off. I looked around me. We were still inside the helicopter,” Şiban began to explain.
“There were lots of soldiers down there. Maybe 100-150 soldiers. They encircled the helicopter, just waiting. One of them said, ‘Bring those terrorists down’. Two soldiers climbed up. They first threw the bodies down.* Then they threw us down too. We were pushed out of the helicopter’s door… The those 100-150 soldiers then attacked us. Kicks, punches… There were 10-20 on top of each of us at a time. I don’t know what they did to us. They threw us on the ground and then they crushed my head.”
Şiban made his first official statement in June 2021 at the prosecutor’s office in Van, and also filed a criminal complaint against the soldiers for attacking and torturing him.
On Monday Mezopotamya News Agency reported that an indictment accusing him of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ was accepted by a court in Van, and the case file was sent to Mersin, where Osman Şiban lived, for another court to take over the case.
While the prosecutor has claimed that Şiban had been involved in the organisation’s militia, taking part in providing logistical support, three barrels of diesel oil are reported to have been detailed as evidence.
The accusations have also been based on the statements of a confessor who claimed that Murat Karayılan, a top official of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), and Mahsun Korkmaz, a senior PKK commander killed in action in 1987, had made meetings during the 1980s and 1990s in Şiban’s house.
* Bodies of the Kurdish fighters killed in action were carried in the same helicopter to the army headquarters.