Turkish political prisoner locked up with ISIS suicide bomber - court documents
Turkish authorities locked up a political prisoner in a cell with a suspected Islamic State (ISIS) member to pressure him into signing a false confession, Stockholm-based news website the Nordic Monitor reported on Saturday, citing court documents.
Geography teacher Birol Kurubaş was detained on Nov. 4, 2017, on charges of involvement in the planning of the 2016 coup attempt, according to the Nordic Monitor.
Kurubaş had taught in private schools operated by businesspeople affiliated with the outlawed Gülen movement, a Turkish Islamist organisation Ankara blames for orchestrating the failed putsch.
After being interrogated in an abusive environment at a police station located in Istanbul’s Vatan neighbourhood, he was kept in a detention cell with an ISIS suspect for two days, Nordic Monitor said.
“I was in a cell with a Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) militant who was caught when he was about to detonate a bomb attached to his body in Istanbul. I believe I was put in his cell on purpose because they didn’t put me in the cell they said they would during my processing,” Kurubaş said in his testimony during a hearing at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court on March 4, 2018.
Turkish authorities placed Kurubaş with the ISIS suspect despite knowing the militant group considered Gülenists, led by U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, to be infidels due to the movement’s emphasis on interfaith dialogue and outreach activities with other religions, according to the Nordic Monitor. Gülen has also issued numerous statements denouncing ISIS.
Kurubaş’s assignment to the same cell as the ISIS member was clearly meant to scare him, the news website said.
The teacher said he endured threats and verbal assaults from the militant.
“You can call it paranoia, but I think someone had this Daesh guy try to bring me down psychologically, which he partially succeeded in doing,” Kurubaş said.
Kurubaş was later moved to the counterterrorism office of Ankara’s police department, where he was subjected to abuse and torture and also interrogated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), the Nordic monitor said.
Investigators threatened to imprison Kurubaş’s wife and send his children to state-run orphanages to force him to make a false statement, it said.
“I was being shown prepared files, names and photos while they [the interrogators] were shouting at me, banging on the table, bringing my family into the discussion. After a while you lose sound judgment. You start thinking that if you don’t say anything about what they are demanding and especially the names they’re targeting, you’re never going to get out of there,” he said.
Kurubaş said the persistent coercion by Turkish security officials eventually forced him to give in to their demands of making up a story along the lines of what he was told, with the names, plans and everything he had earlier been shown by the police, according to the Nordic Monitor.
At his trial hearing in March 2018, Kurubaş told a panel of judges about his time in custody and his initial statements to the court and said he would testify as to what had truly happened.
Following the failed coup in 2016, Ankara dismissed some 150,000 public employees and arrested more than 34,000 people over alleged ties to the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government says the crackdown is necessary to root out the banned group and to eradicate its once considerable influence in Turkey. But critics argue that Ankara has used the failed coup as a pretext to quash all kinds of dissent, pointing to the flimsy nature of the evidence offered in support of many of accusations.