Indicted colonel, a suspect in the disappearance of a Kurd in Turkey, turns into Erdoğan propagandist

Families of victims of state-sponsored murders in the Southeast gathered at Galatasaray Square, where they meet every week to protest unsolved murder cases. January 2012 photo.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

Durmuş Eray Güçlüer, an officer who was a suspect in the enforced disappearance of a Kurdish village headman some 30 years ago and was later indicted for leaking classified military documents, was let off the hook thanks to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a review of official documents has shown.

Today, serving as a government propagandist at Turkish media outlets and delivering lectures at a university in Istanbul to pay his dues, former colonel Güçlüer represents a new breed of conspiracy peddlers in Turkey, spreading false rumors and fueling anti-Western hysteria in Turkish society. Flagged by the General Staff for criminal investigations in 2014 and subjected to scrutiny, he had to retire from the service.

Güçlüer was head of the commando company responsible for law enforcement in Şırnak’s Uludere district, located on the Turkish-Iraqi border, when 30-year-old Ahmet Yaman went missing. In the first week of July 1995 Yaman received a call from the garrison commander, who asked him to come to the garrison for a talk. Yaman was serving as head of a village in the Yeşilyova neighborhood of Uludere. Telling his mother he would be back by evening, Yaman went to the garrison but never returned.

 

The prosecutor’s order that lists Durmuş Eray Güçlüer as a suspect in the disappearance of a Kurdish man:

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Concerned about his safety, his mother Duri Yaman called the garrison to inquire about her son and was told on the phone that he had been detained. The next day, she sent her daughter and daughter-in-law with food, clothes and cigarettes to give her son, but when the women arrived, they were told a helicopter was about to take off to take him to brigade headquarters in Şırnak. The witness statements in the documents indicate that the two women barely caught a glimpse of Yaman as he was walking with a group of soldiers towards the helicopter on the landing pad.

 

Durmuş Eray Güçlüer comments on Turkish President Erdoğan’s visit to Russia.

 

Notified about the developments, his father, Abdo Yaman, rushed to brigade headquarters but was told no such person ever arrived from the district garrison in Uludere. He and his wife filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, asking authorities to find out what happened to their son and to ensure his safe return. Speaking through a translator on July 26, 1995 the mother said her son was summoned by phone by the Gendarmerie District Command but never came back. She stated that she heard her son was later taken to the brigade command in Şırnak.

The prosecutor’s office in Uludere referred the case to the office of chief public prosecutor in Şırnak, citing a lack of jurisdiction. On March 18, 1996 the Şırnak office decided to drop the probe after the garrison command in Uludere denied claims that Yaman was ever put in detention in their facility and the brigade headquarters did not confirm his arrival via helicopter. The case remains unsolved, and Yaman’s body was never found.

 

Complaints by the parents of a missing Kurdish man and witness statements from 1995. The investigation was dropped.

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NEW ATTEMPT TO INVESTIGATE THE COLD FILE ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE

 

Another investigation by the Şırnak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office was initiated in 2010 based on a new challenge brought forward by the mother. The case was part of a larger investigation launched into unsolved murders and enforced disappearances in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast in the 1990s. The government move coincided with a peace initiative to solve the decades-long Kurdish problem in Turkey and to end the clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In a statement she gave to the prosecutor on September 14, 2011, Duri repeated what she had said 16 years earlier and added that she heard her son was thrown out of the military helicopter in the air and was killed in a remote area. On May 18, 2012 Ahmet Paksoy, a member of the neighborhood representative board, told the prosecutor that he and his friend Gürgin Paksoy were having a picnic on the outskirts of town near a fountain when a man who was walking on the road stopped and said Yaman had been detained by the gendarmerie. The two went to the garrison to ask what had happened.

 

Duri’s statement to the prosecutor: 

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They asked to see Maj. Bülent Serdengeçti, the commander of the garrison, but were told that he was away. 1st Lt. Güçlüer was the commander in Serdengeçti’s absence and was sitting in his office. He confirmed that Yaman was in his custody and would soon be let go after he answered a few questions. The men wanted to see and talk to Yaman, but Lt. Güçlüer denied their request and claimed all the needs of the detainee were being met by the garrison. The two later walked around back and stopped by the garrison’s detention building. They spoke with the detained Yaman through the window. “We conveyed to him what Lt. Güçlüer told us, told him not to be afraid and that he would will be released after few questions and that they would meet all his needs there,” Ahmet Paksoy said of the conversation.

Prosecutor Fatih Ekinci, who launched a fresh investigation into Yaman’s disappearance, listed Güçlüer as a suspect. He ordered the prosecutor in the western district of Foça, where Güçlüer was assigned at the time, to take his statement. More witnesses came forward, sharing new details on the disappearance of Ahmet Yaman.

 

Durmuş Eray Güçlüer parades on government TV to spread propaganda on behalf of the government.

 

Yaman was one of many who had gone missing during the 1990s, when paramilitary groups nested within the state security apparatus were involved in extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. The Saturday Mothers, an advocacy group seeking justice for victims of enforced disappearances in Turkey, became prominent in raising awareness of the missing persons from that time. Relatives have been waiting for the return of their loved ones for years, demanding justice, closure and accountability for those responsible for such incidents.

Just like he was spared from criminal charges in the 1990s, Güçlüer was again saved from legal troubles stemming from his role in the disappearance of Yaman in the renewed investigation. The government not only hushed up the second probe but in fact dismissed prosecutor Ekinci for his alleged ties to the Gülen movement, a group that was critical of the government. Ekinci and his wife Fatma Ekinci, a judge, were not only dismissed but also imprisoned on fabricated charges in 2016, sending a clear message to those who dared investigate government-sanctioned illegal activities.

 

INDICTED FOR LEAKING CLASSIFIED MATERIAL, SAVED AGAIN BY THE GOVERNMENT

 

This is not the only time Güçlüer managed to get out of a legal jam. The Erdoğan government also helped him escape punishment on multiple charges in an organized crime network operating out of the western province of Izmir. He was found to have leaked secret military documents to a gang that used extortion and blackmail in honey trap schemes with women as bait.

Güçlüer, then serving as a colonel at the Gendarmerie Commando School in Foça, was detained as a suspect by the order of a judge on July 10, 2012. The arrest came after investigators working for the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office discovered Güçlüer’s ties to the organized crime enterprise when they came across an encrypted file named Pandora in a seized hard drive that was found during the execution of a search and seizure warrant in the summer home of the main suspect, Bilgin Özkaynak, the organized crime boss. The encryption was cracked by IT specialists who were authorized by the court, and the content of the file revealed the names of assets, operatives, marks and a huge archive of secret military and government documents obtained through honey-trap and other schemes.

 

The General Staff’s secret file on Durmuş Eray Güçlüer shows him as red flagged:

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In the encrypted file, Güçlüer’s pofile was explained along with the secret documents he leaked to the gang under the compressed file “ege.rar”. Among the documents were Power Point presentations on Gendarmerie Command training and the the Foça base guard duty roster. They were fled under secret information about gendarmerie schools. The explanatory note highlighted that the leaked documents would give an idea about what kind of capabilities gendarmerie commandos would have after graduating from the military school. The note further added that they obtained the list of foreign military exchange students who were being trained in the Turkish army.

Another piece of evidence against Güçlüer was seized from suspect Narin Korkmaz. A profile note about him was found on a hard drive named ByCasus (Mr.Spy). His name and description were incorporated in a file titled ajanda.xls on the hard drive. His profile note pictured him as an unbalanced, authoritarian man who had personal troubles and often treated others badly. Lacking integrity, he was branded as a hustler who was ready to sell out anybody to get what he wanted.

 

Still shots from a video recording of police searching his house: 

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Turkish prosecutor Zafer Kılıç, who handled the gang case, asked the General Staff about the status of the leaked documents seized from the suspects. In response, the General Staff legal department confirmed that three documents leaked by Güçlüer were classified and that their leak would fall under violation of Turkish Penal Code Article 334, Section 1, which criminalizes the possession or leak of secret documents by unauthorized parties.

Güçlüer was indicted on multiple charges for leaking classified documents and his involvement in a gang that used sex to obtain classified information and also engaged in invasion of privacy, extortion, blackmail, prostitution and organized crime activities. In total 357 suspects including 55 active duty officers and numerous retired officers were indicted when the prosecutor filed criminal charges against the gang in 2013. Güçlüer was arrested on July 10, 2012 and spent 18 months in pretrial detention

The investigation was initiated after police in Izmir received a tip on August 10, 2010 that informed the authorities about a sex trafficking and human smuggling network that was involved in blackmail, prostitution, privacy violations and other criminal activities. The investigators had worked on the case for two years, obtained wiretaps from the courts and ran surveillance on suspects to decode the network.

 

The charges against Durmuş Eray Güçlüer involved leaking secret military documents to a gang.

 

It turned out the gang was much more than a sex trafficking network and resembled more of an espionage group collecting top secret information from various government and military officials through honey traps, sexual favors or blackmail. Among the thousands of pages of secret documents were classified NATO and FBI documents that were shared with the Turkish government as a member of the alliance.

However, the criminal case against the gang members was quashed by the Erdoğan government, and all the suspects were let go including Güçlüer, who was released on January 18, 2014. Many returned to their duties in the Turkish military, while most bureaucrats who were profiled as having sex and leaking information have continued to work for the government.

In the meantime, prosecutors, judges and police investigators who uncovered this massive espionage ring were punished either by dismissal or arrest on trumped-up charges, just like the officials who had investigated the disappearance of Ahmet Yaman in 1995.

 

The statement of Durmuş Eray Güçlüer:

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The secret General Staff documents obtained by Nordic Monitor show that during the review period for the upcoming promotion of officers in 2014, Güçlüer’s case was red flagged, He was subject to a deep background check under a special program called Pergin (Personel Güvenlik İncelemesi), and Turkish intelligence agency MIT was asked to look into his record. The military’s Supreme Disciplinary Board reviews Pergin reports when it issues recommendations about officers who were flagged based on multiple reports from various sources.

 

Durmuş Eray Güçlüer poses at government-owned radio station TRT after being featured as a guest commentator on current affairs.

 

Faced with scrutiny of his past conduct and no prospect of promotion, Güçlüer had to retire from the gendarmerie in August 2014.

He now works as an academic at İstanbul Altınbaş University and pays his dues to the Erdoğan government by spreading propaganda in government-owned and controlled media outlets. He writes op-eds in the Aksam newspaper and appears on TV networks, peddling conspiracy theories, spreading anti-Americanism and wholeheartedly endorsing what the Erdoğan government has been doing in foreign policy, terrorism and military matters. He is also listed as an accredited expert witness in court cases.

 

Record of the search and seizure order: 

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