The former Van Gendarmerie General Staff Colonel of Van, Vecihi Halil İyigün, stands accused of having executed two members of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and one civilian in the course of an operation in the Çaldıran district of Van (south-eastern Anatolia) although the three men had surrendered already.
According to Radikal newspaper, it had been announced that three PKK members had been killed during an armed conflict close to the Buğullukaynak village (Çaldıran/Van) on 7 October 2009.
The Van Special Authority Public Chief Prosecution interrogated Mehmet Emin Atabay who was alleged of "aiding and abetting" the PKK in the context of the incident. The prosecution received a letter during the advanced stages of the investigation stating that two PKK members and one civilian who had already surrendered had been killed:
"I participated in the operation that was carried out at the Buğullukaynak village. Two PKK members tried to escape from the house of M.E.A. and took his son with them to save him from the military. We followed them. We cornered them at a river bank about 2 km off the village. Çaldıran Gendarmerie Commander Lieutenant Murat Yıldırım who was in charge of the operation told them with a megaphone to surrender. So they raised their hands above their heads and surrendered. We made them lie down and waited for Colonel Vecihi Halil İyigün to arrive".
"After Colonel İyigün had arrived, he wanted the commandos to withdraw. Gendarmerie Special Task Forces came later and he gave them the order for execution. Three persons were killed with rifles from a distance of 50 metres. (...) Then he said, 'If they had gone to prison they would have returned to the mountains afterwards'".
The Van Chief Prosecution took the statements of several soldiers after they had received the letter. Their accounts fully corresponded to the content of the letter. According to the statements, Colonel İyigün had searched the commandos for photographs and video records after he arrived. The testimonies of the soldiers confirmed that three people were shot dead by gendarmerie special operations task forces from a distance of 50 metres on the order of İyigün. It is stated in the file of the prosecution that the killed persons were holding weapons in their hands and thus it looked like an armed conflict".
According to the documents of the prosecution, evidence suggested that the two organization members and the civilian were killed upon an unlawful order since a situation of legal defence was not constituted.
İyigün is still on duty at the General Staff. İyigün, Major Burhan Erol, Gendarmerie Non-commissioned Officer Muharrem Yaşar and Special Sergeant Murat Gürsoy were each sentenced to imprisonment of five years and ten months under allegations of "violating freedom of information", "misconduct of office" and "forgery of official documents" on the grounds of having intercepted journalist Mehmet Baransu and his wife by showing them as members of an illegal organization. (AS/VK)