On the 855th week of their search for justice, Turkey’s Saturday Mothers asked about the fate of Mehmet Ertak, who has not been heard of since being detained on his way home from work 29 years ago.
He was on his way home from the coalmine where he worked, with three of his relatives, in the Kurdish-majority province of Şırnak (Şirnex) in Turkey, on 18 August 1992. He was detained by the police and has been missing ever since.
The Ertak family have tried everything possible to reach out for information about Mehmet, but have received no answer. Ertak’s wife Emine spoke at the press conference for the 855th week of Saturday Mothers, MA reports.
“At least give us his bones, we want the state to give us some sign of him. Let our children have a grave for their father.” Emine Ertak stresses that her children have grown up with questions: “They always ask, ‘What happened to our father, if we had his bones, we could have a grave.’ They would be able to say, ‘Our father is here now.’ ”
Mehmet Ertak’s son Servet spoke after his mother. He said that three of their relatives had witnessed his father being detained 29 years ago and added that despite all the information, documentation and eyewitnesses, the authorities continued to deny this.
“Our greatest demand is the prosecution of all torturers. Our quest for justice and truth will never end. If we can not attain justuce, our successors will continue this struggle,” he said.
Kıvanç Sert, part of the Saturday Mothers network, read out the text of the 855th week press release, saying that Mehmet Ertak had been detained twice previously and released after being severely tortured.
“On 18 August 1992 Ertak and three of his relatives who also worked at the coalmine left work to go home. Their vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint by police.
“After the identity check, Mehmet Ertak was detained and taken to Şırnak Police Directorate. The police drew up a report that he had been detained. However, when there was no further news of him, his family applied to the police and were told that he had not been detained.
“Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism (JİTEM) staff member Murat Ipek, who worked as an ‘interrogator’ at Şırnak Police Directorate, made this public confession in 1997: ‘We killed and buried Mehmet Ertak on the orders of Şırnak Chief of Police Necati Altuntaş and Counter-Terrorism Branch Director Mehmet Kaplan.’
“He also said that all the executions they carried out took place with the knowledge of the then of the State of Emergency Governor, Ünal Erkan.
“Unfortunately these confessions did not change anything. The family tried all judicial means and the case was also taken as questions to the parliament. However, despite witnesses, documentation and evidence, the family faced denial everywhere they applied. Finally they went to European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
“Despite all the threats and pressures, the case was taken to the ECtHR. The ECtHR concluded that the available evidence was sufficient to leave no doubt that Mehmet Ertak had been detained and died as a result of torture,” said Sert about the case, adding that the ECtHR therefore condemned Turkey for violating the right to life.
Speaking on behalf of the Saturday Mothers at the end of the press release, Sert said:
“End denial and impunity in the Case of Mehmet Ertak. ECtHR decisions are binding on the state. Fulfill your duty to ensure an effective investigation and prosecution of Mehmet Ertak’s case. No matter how many years pass, we will not stop demanding justice for Mehmet Ertak!”
Saturday Mothers have been demanding justice in Turkey since the mid-1990s. The first Saturday Mothers’ sit-in took place outside Galatasaray High School, located on İstiklal street in Beyoğlu, İstanbul, on 27 May 1995. Initially launched by a small group, the movement has grown over 20 years and turned into a symbolic struggle for human rights defenders. Since that time, the Saturday Mothers have gathered once a week to peacefully protest about the disappearance of their relatives by the state despite oppression, police violence and detentions.