Victim of "helicopter torture” in Van accused of “PKK membership”

Osman Şiban, one of two victims of the so-called “helicopter torture” in Van, is accused of alleged PKK membership. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in prison.

Osman Şiban is accused of being a member of the PKK. The chief public prosecutor's office in Van accuses the 51-year-old, based on "relevant intelligence information", of being a "member of an armed terrorist organisation" and, as such, of having provided "logistical support". This would mainly consist of procuring material for shelters in the rural area between Van and Şirnak. If Şiban is convicted, he faces up to ten years in prison under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Act of revenge by the judiciary and the military

The indictment of Osman Şiban is seen as an act of revenge by the controlled judiciary and the military. The Kurdish man is both a witness and a victim of one of the most serious attacks by the Turkish army on the Kurdish civilian population in recent years. Together with 55-year-old Servet Turgut, Osman Şiban was detained on 11 September 2020 near Çatak district during field work by soldiers from a Turkish operations unit. After severe torture, they were pushed out of a military helicopter and they suffered serious injuries.

After the ordeal, Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut were taken to different hospitals. The military told the medical staff that the two men were terrorists and had been injured when they tried to escape from a helicopter. Şiban survived the ordeal but is scarred for life. Servet Turgut died after twenty days in a coma.

"Evidence": spare fuel canister, MIT clues, alleged witness

As evidence for Osman Şiban's alleged PKK membership, the indictment lists, among other things, three spare fuel canisters that were allegedly discovered in open ground in a hamlet in Çatak. Because Şiban's house, which he only lives in during the summer - the rest of the year he lives in the coastal metropolis of Mersin - is close to where they were found, the canisters could only have been taken there by the 51-year-old, the prosecution argues. They also say that the area of the hamlet where Şiban's house is located was flown over by a reconnaissance drone on 9 September 2020. The evaluation of the collected data is alleged to have shown that at the time of the control flights, there were activities in the area that "did not fit coherently into the usual flow of life". Last but not least, the prosecution refers to the statements of a supposed witness who - if he exists at all - claims to have stated that Osman Şiban's house had been regularly visited by PKK cadres Murat Karayılan and Mahsum Korkmaz (killed in Gabar on 28 March 1986) in the 1980s and 1990s.

Prosecution: Accused lies to avoid punishment

The Van prosecution considers Osman Şiban's statements, which were made during a police interrogation last January, to be "lies". He is argued to have told the untruth "in order to avoid punishment". Şiban, who was arrested at the time in Mersin for the purpose of being transferred and was only released due to his poor state of health as a result of his inability to be transported as determined by a medical examiner, stated during the interrogation: "The soldiers arrested us and took us to the helicopter. On the way there they beat us all the time. Even when we were lying next to the helicopter, the torture continued. At one point, a soldier kicked me in the head with all his might. I then fell unconscious. I don't remember what happened afterwards. When I opened my eyes again, I was in Mersin."

No court date yet

The indictment against Osman Şiban was accepted by the 5th Van Grand Criminal Chamber, but the case was transferred to a court in Mersin for lack of jurisdiction. The court has not yet set a date for the opening of the trial. First, the indictment has to be formally accepted again.