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The 36th hearing of the case regarding the Operation Back to Life at the Bayrampaşa Prison in İstanbul on December 19, 2000, was held yesterday (March 14) at the 13th Heavy Penal Court at the Bakırköy Courthouse in İstanbul.
A letter that was sent to the Prosecutor's Office in 2003 was also talked at the hearing. The letter claims to reveal those who are responsible for the incident.
Attorney Güçlü Sevimli told bianet that the letter was signed by someone named "Ali Er," and the name of a witness who previously gave testimony in the case was Bayram Ali Er. He said that they requested the court to examine whether these two are actually the same person.
Having testified through the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS) in the 34th hearing of the case, Bayram Ali Er said that he did not write the mentioned letter.
The court, accepting attorney Güçlü's request, decided that the handwriting in the letter and Bayram Er's handwriting shall be compared and examined.
The letter that begins with the sentence, "We took giving information to you about this topic as a humanitarian, conscientious duty," was sent to the Eyüp Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in İstanbul.
In the letter, Colonel Burhan Engin, the commanding officer of the Operation Back to Life, is pointed as the person who is responsible for the deaths. The letter says that Engin was a gendarmerie team commander in Silvan at the time, and became Diyarbakır at the time and became Ankara Gendarmerie Commando Special Public Order Commander during the Operation Back to Life.
"He directed the Operation Back to Life in person. He is the leading perpetrator of all deadly incidents and he gave the killing orders in person. We, with our friends, took place in the operation. Colonel Burhan Engin gave the killing orders," the letter says.
Ali Er could not be found at the time as he was not at the address he stated.
The court also ruled that the radio conversations in the operation where the "Typhoon" plan was applied shall be requested again.
The court previously requested the conversation recording from the Gendarmerie General Command. Though it received a reply that says the request should be made from the Provincial Gendarmerie Command.
In yesterday's hearing, attorneys asked the defendants whether they know the call sign. One defendant responded that it could be "hawk" (atmaca).
Saying that the word "hawk" was mentioned in a document in the case file, attorney Sevimli made a request from the court. Accepting Sevimli's request, the court ruled that a minute shall be submitted to the Ankara Special Public Order Unit.
Retired Specialized Sergeant Hidayet Yorgancı from the Ankara Special Public Order Unit, a defendant of the case, said in his testimonies in 2006 and in 2013 that noncommissioned officers Süreyya Yalçınkaya and Zafer Sabancı entered the prison where the operation was conducted.
Yorgancı, however, said in yesterday's hearing that Yalçınkaya did not enter the prison and that only Sabancı took part in the operation.
Intervening attorneys reminded that Sabancı was killed and accused the defendant of "putting the blame on the person who died."
Attorney Sevimli told the court board that "the defendants are lying and most of them do not admit that they entered the prison."
"Along the trial, only four people admitted they entered the prison. Was the whole operation conducted with four people?" he asked.
Attorney Sevimli also said that the trial has been going on for 19 years and there is a danger of statute of limitations.
The court, despite the attorneys' objections, adjourned the case to July 10, 2019.
What is the 'Operation Back to Life'?
During the week of December 19-26, 2000, 10,000 soldiers occupied 48 prisons to end two months of hunger strikes and "death fasts" by hundreds of political prisoners. The hunger strikers were protesting the state's plan to transfer its prisoners from large wards to the US-style "F-type" cells holding one to three inmates
Operation Back to Life, which left at least 31 prisoners and two soldiers dead, lasted a few hours in most prisons, and up to three days at one prison. Eight prisoners were reportedly "disappeared", and at least 426 prisoners were wounded.
The first lawsuit regarding the "Operation Back to Life" conducted in Bayrampaşa Prison was filed in 2010, ten years after the incident.
The indictment against 37 private soldiers and two non-commissioned officers was filed by Eyüp Public Prosecutor's Office and the ensuing court case has been continuing at the Bakırköy 13th Heavy Penal Court.
After the official document entitled "The Deluge (Tufan) Operation Order", according to which the operation was conducted in Bayrampaşa Prison, was submitted to court, the second court case was filed against 157 members of the gendarmerie for "homicide" and "homicidal attempt" in March 2015.