Seven individuals, four of whom are active military officers, were arrested over the weekend as part of a deepening probe into the death of Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five others in a helicopter crash in 2009.
Sixteen individuals, including 11 active duty military officers, were detained last Wednesday in simultaneous operations conducted in five provinces across the country as part of an investigation into the BBP helicopter crash. The operations were authorized by the Malatya Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office following the emergence of new details suggesting that the helicopter crash was more than an accident.
Twelve of the detainees who were interrogated by prosecutors Özden Doğan and Şeref Gürkan were referred to the Malatya Specially Authorized 3rd High Criminal Court by the prosecutors, while four suspects were released following the interrogations. The court ruled to arrest seven of the suspects while the other five were released by the court pending trial. The suspects were jailed in a prison in Malatya.
The investigation into Yazıcıoğlu’s mysterious death entered a new phase when an unknown army officer sent a video to President Abdullah Gül of the helicopter crash site. Three officers can be seen in the video; one is removing the black box containing two recording devices from the front panel of the helicopter while two others look on. The military officers seen in the video are among the jailed suspects.
Within the scope of a decision made by the Malatya Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office last Tuesday, police carried out operations in Malatya, İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya and İzmir in the early hours of Wednesday morning to locate missing parts of the crashed helicopter, incident reports, images of the helicopter wreckage and other relevant sources of information. Police searched various gendarmerie offices, Civil Aviation Association buildings at the Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM) of the Department of Aviation Standards and army housing complexes.
Police found incident reports at the SHGM and began a further investigation into these documents along with all reports generated since the time of the incident. Over the past week, the media, citing unnamed experts, has speculated that turbulence caused by warplanes may have inadvertently downed the helicopter.
The State Audit Institution (DDK) has investigated the cause of the crash, which has been mired in suspicion, since it occurred in May 2009.
In the meantime, Turkish-German pilot Volkan Sürmeli, who was invited to Turkey by the BBP to investigate the helicopter crash, told the Sabah daily on Saturday that he has received threats to keep his mouth shut from Ferudun Seren, the head of the Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Team.
“I saw devices on Seren’s desk that were retrieved from the helicopter. Seren told me at the site of the accident not to dig too deep into it. During a phone call three months after the accident, he told me, ‘If you do not share your report with us, we will one day prepare a report for your helicopter crash’,” Sürmeli said.
Seren is one of the suspects who were arrested over the weekend in the probe into the helicopter crash.
02 October 2011, Sunday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL