A Murdered Turkish Cypriot Columnist


As any attention of the international community is focused on the negotiations to find a solution to the Cyprus problem by the end of the year, the European Court of Human Rights is coming closer to announcing its verdict on a case that has drawn much attention, at least among Cypriots. The case against Turkey is that of Mrs Adali, the widow of well-known Turkish Cypriot author and journalist Kutlu Adali who was assassinated in 1996.

While Turkey has had several charges brought against it in the ECHR regarding its current occupation of northern Cyprus, the case of Mrs Adali is one of the few examples in which a Turkish Cypriot is charging Turkey for major human rights violations in the part of the island it controls with the pretext of ensuring the safety of the Turkish Cypriots (another notable pending case is that of Mr Ahmet An).

As the date of the decision of the court nears (last hearing was on 8th October,2002), pressures have been mounting. The attention of the international community on the high level negotiations in the past few months has resulted in caution applied not to “upset” the authorities. These authorities claim to represent the Turkish Cypriot people and this caution of the international community has given them immunity to perform several acts to silence the progressive Turkish Cypriots opposing the current status-quo in the island. For example, two opposition journalists were jailed in August, each for a six-month sentence, for criticizing the “leader” of the regime in northern Cyprus. Later they were released after a reduction of their sentences. A quick glance at reports by organizations such as the Reporters without Borders and Comittee for the Protection of Journalists reveals that during the last two years the frequency of attacks on press has increased.

In an effort to draw the attention of the international community to the lack of human rights in northern Cyprus, we present some background to the assasination of Mr Adali and underline the most recent act of terrorisation and intimidation that the regime has been applying to Mrs Adali.

Mr Kutlu Adali was a Turkish Cypriot writer and journalist who was known for writing and publishing articles strongly critical of the policies and practices of the Turkish Government and the authorities of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)”. He had always claimed that Cyprus should not be divided and that Turkish and Greek Cypriots should live in a united republic based on a pluralist democratic system.

He had played an active role in the life of the community from the 1960s. For more than ten years, he had served as a private secretary to Mr Denktash, the leader of the current regime in northern Cyprus, but was removed from this position and denied his salary when he wished to write articles critical of the policies followed by Mr Denktash. In 1972, when he refused to work for the radio station under the control of the TMT (Turkish Resistance Movement – the paramilitary organisation effecting all aspects of Turkish Cypriot life during the period), he was imprisoned without any charge or trial for one week.

During his public service and afterwards, Adali wrote articles expressing his views about a unified Cyprus, first using a pseudonym (due to the dangers involved in expressing his points of view using his real name), and later, his real name. For the last seven years of his life, he wrote regularly for “Yeniduzen”, a left-wing newspaper associated with the Republican Turkrish Party (CTP).

Kutlu Adali received various threats intended to deter him from continuing to express his beliefs. Between January 1980 and July 1996 persons unknown subjected him to various forms of harassment. His house was attacked with machine guns and he received frequent threatening phone calls. Unknown people broke into his house looking for copies of his articles, to be able to start criminal proceedings against him, as he was writing his articles under a pseudonym.

On 17 March 1996 the “Yenidüzen” newspaper printed an article by Kutlu Adali about an incident in which thieves had broken into a tomb in the monastery of St Barnabas and stolen various objects of cultural significance. He had written that the licence plates and the colours of the thieves’ cars had been noted, and the licence plates had been traced as belonging to two members of the Civil Defence Organisation [Footnote: translations of his articles about the St Barnabas event and various articles outlining the connections between the Turkish counter-intelligence and the events will be available at Cyprus Action network web site: http://www.cyprusaction.org]. After the publication of this article, the editor of the newspaper received a threatening phone call from the head of the Civil Defence Organisation. Mr Adali also began to receive frequent threatening phone calls.

On 4 July 1996 the “Yenidüzen” Newspaper published another article by Mr Adali which strongly criticised the “Mother Country – Child Country” policy of the Government of Turkey and that of the “TRNC”.

On 6 July 1996, at around 11.35 pm, he was shot and killed in front of his house in Nicosia by unknown persons. His wife was in Istanbul on the night when he was killed. When she telephoned her husband at about 11.15 pm, he had told her that “they” had been threatening him. The “TRNC” authorities refused to show Mrs Adali her husband’s body. She was told by the doctor in charge of the mortuary, Dr Ismail Bundak, that no post-mortem had been carried out, although the body had been x-rayed. She has never been permitted to see the x-rays. Only in October 2002, after the ECHR ordered their release, she was shown the photographs of the crime scene.

Mrs Adali has attempted to investigate her husband’s death herself. She found out from her neighbours that shortly before her husband’s death, a black car parked in the street. This black car was of the same model as the car driven by “A . S”, a retired police officer who had become friendly with the family in the last months of the applicant’s husband’s life. This retired police officer, “A . S” did not appear for ten days following the death of Kutlu Adali.

Adali’s neighbours told his wife that around the time her husband was shot they had heard him begging his killers for his life. They said that they had heard a man say that he deserved to die. The neighbours also informed her that the electric lighting in the street outside Adali’s home went out at about 10.30 pm , leaving the area in total darkness and was only switched on again shortly after Mr Adali had been shot. Mrs Adali learned also from her neighbours that within only a few minutes of the shooting about twelve military cars came and sealed off the area and the “special teams” of the police threatened the neighbours with guns to force them to go back inside their houses.

On 8 July 1996, pro-government newspaper “Kibris” reported that they had received a statement from a fascist group calling itself the Turkish Revenge Brigade claiming that they had killed Kutlu Adali. This group is linked with the “Grey Wolves”, who are the youth movement of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party. These in turn have close and long-standing links with members of the Turkish armed forces, the Turkish police, The Turkish National Intelligence Service (MIT), the Turkish paramilitary apparatus, Turkish Ministers and the Turkish Mafia. Same group’s name appeared in various extra-judicial murders in southeastern Anatolia during late 80s.

Three days after Kutlu Adali was killed, his family received a telephone call from an anonymous caller, a woman, who gave the names of two individuals who she said were responsible for Mr Adali’s murder, a Mr Hüseyin Demirci and a man whose first name is Orhan. [Footnote: This was later reported by M. Ekmekci -- a prominent Turkish columnist -- on August 4th, 1996 in Cumhuriyet. H. Demirci and another individual named Orhan Ceylan tried to sue Ekmekci because of this article. The case was later withdrawn.] The police was informed about this phone call but refused to start an investigation, stating that this woman was known for making false allegations to the police. Mr Demirci had been arrested in 1990 for a murder in the Inonu (Sinde) village, but was later released because he “had a good file at the police” as he put it. It worked the same way in this event too. When the 2nd assistant to the Commander General of the Police Force, testified that on the night of the assasination, he was having dinner with Demirci at a distant location, the suspect was released. After a while, it was found out that Demirci was on the payroll of the Famagusta branch of the Civil Defense Organization – just like Cahit Huray, who was caught threatening Ilkay Adali on the phone and was fined a miniscule amount of money for this offense. Orhan was a colonel in the Turkish armed forces on the island.

There have also been repeated allegations in the press that a man called Abdullah Çatli, an extreme right-wing activist who was linked with the “Grey Wolves”, and who was allegedly instructed by some Turkish officials to kill people suspected of being members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), was involved in the death of Kutlu Adali. The name “Abdullah Çatli” has become very well-known after he died in a car accident in Turkey (on 3 November, 1996) while travelling with a member of the parliament and an ex-police chief. His death has opened a can of worms shedding some light to the so called “deep state” operating within the Turkish state.

A taxi-driver operating out of the Ataturk Square in Nicosia told Ilkay Adali that in the morning following the assasination of Mr Adali, he took Abdullah Catli to the airport. In the parliamentary investigation of Turkey, it was later revealed that Catli had been to Cyprus several times using the name of Mehmet Ozbay, had dined with high-ranking military and police officials, and stayed at the Jasmine Court Hotel belonging to the assasinated Turkish casino operator Omer Lutfu Topal (who was later murdered allegedly by the “deep state”). The same parliamentary investigation also found out that Catli had met the then commander of the Turkish military forces on the island, Mr. Hasan Kundakci at least six times in his office in Cyprus. Kundakci was later to openly declare his admiration for Catli in an interview he gave with the Turkish magazine, Aktuel.

On 5 March 1997 the “Yenidüzen” Newspaper published a letter signed by the head of the “Grey Wolves” in Cyprus, which contained a threat that left-wing journalists and writers would be killed like Kutlu Adali. The police were given copies of this article to investigate, but no response followed.

To better understand the reluctance of the police force in northern Cyprus to investigate these cases, one needs only to remember that the police force is under direct command of the Turkish military forces whose high-ranking officers have been known to have had friendly relations with the main suspects to say the least.

In the absence of any success by the “TRNC” police in identifying the killers of Kutlu Adali, his wife brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The harrassment against Mrs Adali in various forms increased after this application. In December 1999 Mrs Adali had a meeting with Professor Bakir Çaglar about her application before the Court. Professor Çaglar, who is a former representative of the Turkish Government in the European Court of Human Rights, allegedly told her that she could be assassinated, if she wins her case before the Court.

In its hearing on 31 January 2002, the ECHR found the case of Mrs Adali vs. Turkey admissible.

With the decision date of the court approaching, the psychological pressure on Mrs Adali has been mounting. The most recent act has included the tormenting and then killing of the Adali family dog which was one of the witnesses of the assassination. It was found dead with two broken legs and broken ribs in the field across the house of the Adali family. She and other members her family have been receiving various other forms of threats and warnings over the years. Acts of this nature, aimed at putting immense psychological pressure on Turkish Cypriot progressives have taken place in many forms in the northern part of Cyprus in the past. There have been at least 31 bombings, 10 arsons, 4 gun firings and 1 murder with political motivations since Turkey intervened in 1974 and installed a huge military presence on the island with the alleged purpose of guaranteeing the safety of the Turkish Cypriots. Yet, the same power structure has more often than not been seen as the one solely responsible for various acts of oppression aimed at the progressive Turkish Cypriots who are working for the reunification of the island.

The decision of the ECHR to be announced shortly may, for the first time, find Turkey guilty of a direct violation of human rights against a Turkish Cypriot. In the coming days, the attacks of the regime trying to prevent the opposition from “embarrassing” it in the international arena, can be expected to increase. It is our conviction that only when people outside Cyprus, politicians and electors, understand that these progressive Turkish Cypriots are under attack of the very people who claim to represent and protect them, can further repressive acts of the regime in northern Cyprus be prevented and a solution of the Cyprus problem be found that represents the interests of all the people of Cyprus.

This article was written for Cyprus Action Network (CAN). CAN is a newly founded organization linking young Cypriots living abroad and is trying to establish branches in universities and other local youth centers accross the world to raise awareness to human rights and humanitarian issues about Cyprus. Supporting materials and references along with other articles about relevant issues, as well as contact information will be available at CAN web site at http://www.cyprusaction.org . We acknowledge help from a variety of other concerned organizations and invidiuals.

Eser Keskiner is a Cypriot currently working in France. Turgut Durduran is a Cypriot studying in USA. They are active in several human rights and peace-building organizations. They have co-founded (with others) Peace-Cyprus.Org and Hamamboculeri.Org.

Copyleft (c), 2002, Cyprus Action Network (www.cyprusaction.org)

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