A Turkish prosecutor has demanded 15 years in prison for Kurdish villager Osman Şiban, who was allegedly beaten by security forces in Van province and is accused of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), at the second hearing of his trial held on Wednesday, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.
While Şiban and his lawyers were present at the second hearing held at the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court, two witnesses did not appear in person and were connected via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS).
According to the Mezopotamya news agency, Şiban said he doesn’t know the people who testified as informants at the hearing. “No PKK member came to my house. I reject the accusations [made by the witnesses],” he said.
Şiban, has been indicted for membership in a terrorist organization. The first hearing was held at the Van 5th High Criminal Court in December 2021; however, Şiban’s trial was transferred to Mersin, where he resides.
The trial was adjourned until April 11.
The prosecutor accused Şiban of providing logistical support to the PKK. According to the indictment, PKK militants took food from his house in the village of Surik. Three 40 to 50-liter containers of diesel fuel that were found in the vicinity of Şiban’s house were also considered evidence in the indictment.
The indictment also included the testimony of an informant who claimed that two top PKK figures, Murat Karayılan and Mahsum Korkmaz, had a meeting at Şiban’s house at the time.
Şiban and Servet Turgut were detained by gendarmes while working on their farm in September 2020 and were allegedly pushed out of a military helicopter. Initial reporting on the incident by rights groups and media outlets cited a medical report giving the reason for their admission to the hospital as a “fall from a height.”
Yet, research by opposition deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık revealed in November 2020 that the villagers were in fact assaulted by a mob of more than 100 soldiers.
According to Şık, the villagers were thrown out of the helicopter but only after it had landed. The claim that they were thrown out of a helicopter when it was airborne was based on an “official lie” told by the gendarmes to cover their crimes.
Şık’s research revealed that gendarmes in civilian clothes took Turgut and Şiban to two separate hospitals and told the doctors that the two were terrorists who had fought with them and later jumped out of a helicopter when they were being transported after detention.
Hospital personnel later recorded this account as the cause of hospitalization as a “fall from a height” and a “fall from a helicopter.” According to Şık the lie became widespread because the rights activists and lawyers who spoke to the press thought the victims had in fact been thrown from a helicopter.
In a statement on September 21 the Van Governor’s Office had denied the mistreatment and claimed that the villagers were hospitalized after they fell from a cliff while running away from security forces despite an order to halt.
Şiban was discharged from the hospital on September 20. On September 30, 55-year-old Turgut, a father of seven, succumbed to his injuries in the Van Regional Teaching and Research Hospital’s intensive care unit.
Four journalists were arrested in October 2020 over their reports on the incident on charges of disseminating propaganda on behalf of the PKK.