Army officers among 10 detained in operations in Yazıcıoğlu case

Ten individuals, including active duty military officers, were detained on Wednesday in simultaneous operations in five provinces across the country as part of an investigation into the death of the leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP), Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009 along with five others.

The operations were carried out by the Malatya Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office following the emergence of new details suggesting that the helicopter crash was more than an accident.

The investigation of Yazıcıolu’s mysterious death entered a new phase when an unknown army officer sent a video to President Abdullah Gül of the helicopter crash site where Yazıcıoğlu and five others perished. 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.

Within the scope of the Malatya Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office’s decision taken on Tuesday, police carried out operations in Malatya, İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya and İzmir on the early hours of Wednesday to find the missing parts of the crashed helicopter, incident reports, images of  the crashed helicopter and other relevant sources of information. Police carried out operations at various gendarmerie offices, Civil Aviation Association buildings, at the Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM), at the Department of Aviation Standards and in army housing complexes.

Police got hold of the incident reports found at the SHGM and started an investigation into these documents as well as all the reports created since the time of the incident. Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım stated on Wednesday that there had been no arrests made during the SGHM searches and that police have just questioned some SGHM employees regarding the Yazıcıoğlu case.

With the order of the Malatya prosecutors, a search was conducted at former Air Force Commander General M.Ç.’s home in Antalya province. M.Ç. has recently resigned from his post in the military. The resigned general was not at home, but his wife disclosed M.Ç.’s whereabouts and police are now searching M.Ç. using the information provided by his wife. Antalya Counterterrorism officers did not find any documents in M.Ç.’s home.

It was reported by the police department on Wednesday that a total of 51 army officers have been involved in the rescue operation of the crashed helicopter in 2009, including a mountaineering team of 20, a land forces unit of 20, a team of seven in the Sikorsky helicopter that carried out the search in area and five technicians.

The Presidency’s State Audit Institution (DDK) has been investigating the cause of the crash, which has been mired in suspicion since it happened in May 2009. The DDK’s findings confirm allegations that military jets were in the same area as the helicopter minutes before the crash. There is also a four-minute blackout of all radars in the area that coincides with the time of the crash. The DDK’s recent findings indicate that a critical map drawn up by the Telecommunication Directorate (TİB), using the victims’ cell phone coordinates to aid in search and rescue efforts was not used by the gendarmerie search teams looking for the crash site.

TİB officials say two maps showing the coordinates of the crash site were created on the day of the crash, one drawn up at 4.55 p.m., and the other at 10.30 p.m., using GSM signals from the victims’ phones that still had running batteries. However, the DDK report found that the maps were deliberately concealed by the gendarmerie commanders conducting the search.

Earlier, a parliamentary commission also looked into allegations that the crash was the result of sabotage. Testifying to this commission, Lt. Col. Hamza Tiryaki from the Kahramanmaraş Gendarmerie Office, who was in charge of coordinating the rescue efforts, said, “The coordinates of the spot where the crash occurred were not given to us, but we were given coordinates of a region, where we subsequently conducted our search.”

The DDK in its report said that the search and rescue operation conducted on the day of the crash was staged to keep up appearances with the local villagers, saying persistent disregard of the maps created by Akdoğu based on TİB data point in this direction. The search teams looked for the wreckage in the wrong locations for long hours in vain.

The helicopter carrying BBP leader Yazıcıoğlu and five others crashed in Kahramanmaraş while returning from an election rally. The eventually unsuccessful search by rescue teams was hindered by snowstorms and heavy fog and a lack of knowledge of the exact location of the crash site in a mountainous area of more than 30 square kilometers.

Yazıcıoğlu, BBP Sivas provincial branch President Erhan Üstündağ, BBP Sivas provincial branch Vice President Yüksel Yağcı, Sivas City Council candidate Murat Çetinkaya and İhlas News Agency (İHA) reporter İsmail Güneş along with pilot Kaya İstektepe had been traveling from Kahramanmaraş to Yozgat when the accident occurred. The victims’ snow-covered bodies were found by local villagers 72 hours after the crash.

 

 

28 September 2011, Wednesday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL