Contradictory statements on the death of a Kurdish conscript

News About Turkey - NAT
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A soldier of Kurdish origin serving in a prison in Izmir has been found dead, but official statements on the circumstances of his death are contradictory. Relatives speak of murder as the conscript had been repeatedly threatened.

Osman Özçalımlı from Digor district of Kars province was doing a short-term military service for the Turkish army in a prison in Izmir. On Saturday morning, he was found dead there in a suspicious way. There are contradictory statements about the circumstances of his death. According to the security authorities in Digor, Özçalımlı is said to have suffered a fatal heart attack while on duty in the Aliağa high security prison in Izmir on Friday night. His body was found at five in the morning. According to the Izmir Forensic Department, Özçalımlı fell from the third floor of a section of the prison.

The relatives of the deceased do not believe either version. “One day before his death, Osman called me and told me that he was being threatened because of his Kurdish identity”, said Ahmet Özçalımlı, the father of the dead soldier.

The news of his son’s death was brought to him personally yesterday by the Digor District Governor, the Chief of Police and the head of the District Military Police Command. Özçalımlı had immediately made it clear that he could hardly believe the heart attack theory, as Osman had repeatedly told him during telephone calls in the two days before his body was found that he had been receiving death threats. “He said that he was being discriminated against. They are said to have called him a ‘traitor to his country’. I then called the prison and spoke to a staff sergeant named Abdullah. I told him the content of the conversation with my son and he replied that I should not worry. The next morning I was told Osman was dead.”

After the conversation between Özçalımlı and the high-ranking officials from Digor, they obviously made a U-turn. Suddenly, the District Governor said that Osman Özçalımlı could in principle have died of something else. “A lieutenant, who also visited us, said that Osman might have hit his head. At that time we had already mobilized our relatives in and around Izmir, who went to the forensic medicine. They were told that my son had fallen from the third floor. I called Officer Ahmet again. He said that Osman had fainted and was taken to hospital. He couldn’t give me an answer as to which hospital it would be.”

In the Turkish army there are always suspicious “accidents” of soldiers or “diseases” with fatal consequences. However, the most common official pronouncement in questionable cases of death is “suicide”. According to a study by the Turkey-based “Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed” (Mazlum-Der), 90 percent of conscripts who have allegedly committed suicide are Kurds.

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