First criminal case opened in suspicious death of opposition leader

A prosecutor in the province of Kahramanmaras has opened a criminal case against a police officer for misconduct as part of an investigation into the suspicious death of former Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazicioglu, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009 along with five others.

Dursun Ozmen, the policeman accused of misconduct in Yazicioglu’s case, wrote a note when he was serving as head of the Kahramanmaras Police Department’s intelligence unit suggesting that the late BBP leader was still alive immediately after the crash. The note in question was announced to the public by then-Kayseri Governor Mevlut Bilici and was claimed to have negatively affected the activities of the search and rescue teams, which failed to find Yazicioglu.

According to the indictment against Ozmen obtained by Today’s Zaman, the suspect is accused of undermining the search and rescue activities and misinforming the public, including the families of the victims, through misconduct. Ozmen’s note claimed that the BBP leader was inside an ambulance en route to a hospital after having his leg broken during the crash, while in fact neither the wreckage of the helicopter nor any of the victims had been found at the time. The content of the note was communicated to the police departments of 10 provinces in the space of five minutes. Later an autopsy conducted on the body of Yazicioglu indicated that his leg was broken.

The indictment was accepted by the Kahramanmaras 2nd Criminal Court of Peace.

Meanwhile, according to some officials closely following the case, the prosecutor’s move is a part of an attempt to conceal the facts of the Yazicioglu case. An official speaking to Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity said: “There are few criminal cases like this one. And the incident will be portrayed as if it was a simple accident.”

Three days after the 2009 crash, the helicopter wreckage and the bodies of the passengers, including Yazicioglu, were found by local villagers. However, a document that was sent to the Malatya Public Prosecutor’s Office shows that military helicopters actually found the wreckage on the day of the crash but did not report the find to rescue teams.