On Nov. 10 the martial-law authority of Ankara announced that Ilhan Erdost, a prominent leftist publisher who was taken into custody "on various charges," had "passed away of brain hemorrhage when one of the soldiers escorting him hit him on the head while he was being taken to an Army [truck] to the detention ward."
The announcement said that a non-commissioned officer and eight privates were taken into custody in connection with the incident:
According to Muzaffer Erdost, however, an elder brother and himself a promient leftist publisher, Erdost died after he was savagely beaten by a group of soldiers. Muzaffer Erdost said he was beaten alongside him and saw his brother die.
His hands still swollen and his face bruised from their ordeal in Mamak military prison in Ankara on Nov. 7, Muzaffer Erdost wrote a 10-page report that was made available to The Washington Post. The report was accompanied by the photostat of an autopsy report issued by the Gulhane military hospital in Ankara -- signed by Prof. Aydin Akkaya and military doctors Maj. Yuksel Alvur and Maj. Naki Salman Pakoglu -- which confirmed that the 36-year-old publisher died after a severe beating.
It is understood that the soldiers beat the brothers of their own violation, without the instruction or knowledge of their superiors. All were detained the night of the murder and are expected to be punished severely. The authorities, while they confirm that Erdost died in custody, have refused comment on the circumstances of his death until the soldiers come to trial.
Understandably, Turkish officials regard the case as sensitive. The U.S. section of Amnesty International, the human rights group, has charged that at least eight persons have died in custody in Turkey since the military took over the government in a coup Sept. 12. There are indications as well that torture of political detainees is widespread, the Amnesty International charges continued.
Muzaffer Erdost's account started on Nov. 3 when, it says, security officials searched the homes and offices of the two brothers and confiscated several Turkish translations of works by Lenin and Stalin.
According to Muzaffer Erdost's report, this is what happened afterward:
For three days the two were interrogated by military and civilian authorities and on Nov. 7 they were informed at Mamak that they would be sent into detention on charges of "possessing banned books."
They were taken to the registry office where they were photographed and their hair and mustaches were shaved off, the traditional prelude to detention in Turkey.
Muzaffer Erdost said that they received their first beating from the soldiers together with other political suspects lining up to fill out forms to be admitted into prison.
A noncommissioned officer who came to take the two brothers to the nearby prison seemed disturbed when he learned the Erdost brothers were leftists.
According to Muzaffer Erdost, the officer said, "You poisoned even 10-year-old children. The prisons are full of them. We have no rest because of you." Pointing at the soldiers he added, "Even at night these kids can't get any sleep."
While the Erdosts were getting into the specially built Army prison truck, the soldiers allegedly started kicking them and hitting them with truncheons.
"The prison [truck] had two parts," he wrote. "There was a bolted door separating these two parts. Four soldiers carrying truncheons got in before the truck started. They came to the [inner] prisoners' part where we were and ordered us to stand up. They started to hit our hands with truncheons, two hitting me and the other two my brother. They were hitting without pity, with all their strength, after a while, I started to yell. My brother said nothing. For a moment I turned back and saw my brother stumble and fall on the floor. He was having difficulty getting up. Two soldiers were still kicking him, hitting him with truncheons."
Muzaffer Erdost said he begged the soldiers to stop beating his brother, who had a bad back.
"Nobody listened," he continued. "Because of the slaps and blows on my face I wasn't able to see my brother properly.It was dark and there were no lights in the truck. As the truck was going I could see the lights outside through the small barred windows. The truck was going slow as an oxcart."
Muzaffer Erdost reckons that the beating lasted half an hour, while they were being taken out of the truck and into the courtyard the beating continued. w
"It was unbearable, therefore we asked the noncommissioned officer to stop it. He said 'You should have been through this before.'"
He said the soldiers continued to beat the publishers.
"I saw my brother fall again. He couldn't get up. They were on him, kicking, hitting, striking. With difficulty he got up. They told us to stand at attention even though our feet could no longer carry us. Our hands were swollen like logs. We weren't able to put them at our sides. The noncommissioned officer shouted, 'Put your hands on your sides. You have only your testicles to burst.' When the soldiers heard this they started to beat us again."
The brothers were eventually taken to a ward with Ilhan Erdost stumbling and falling.
"The two soldiers yelled. Prisoners came running from a cell. The soldier asked if they had room for us. They answered, 'Yes commander.' The soldiers asked, 'Do you take them in?' The answer was, 'Yes, commander.'
"The door was opened and we entered. Several prisoners took me by the arm, several others took my brother. For a moment our eyes met. Here and there his face was covered with blood. His eyes were bloodshot. We looked at each other and said nothing.
"My brother took two more steps and said, 'I feel nausea. I am going to vomit.' He was about to fall. The prisoners took him by the arm, and laid him down on a bed. They took his shirt off. I called: 'Ilhan, Ilhan.' There was no reply, 'Ilhan, Ilhan,' I cried again. They told me he would be all right. He must have fainted, I thought.
"They laid him on a bed beside me. As they were putting him on the bed someone said, 'He can't stand on his feet.' Alas, I said to myself, he is paralyzed. I didn't want to admit his death."
Half an hour later, Ilhan's body was carried out of the cell.
"I started to wail. The prisoners were standing in line at attention near their bunks waiting to be counted. Among the leftists I could hear people crying, more and more people crying.
"I was wet with sweat all over," Muzaffer Erdost continued. "There was a cold wind. I was being taken somewhere else. I was shivering and was about to fall. They wrapped my jacket over my head to stop me from shivering. We walked about 400 meters and came to the NCO club. The noncommissioned officer was watching television. 'Mr. Muzaffer, why didn't you tell us your brother had a heart problem?' he asked.
"My brother had no heart problem.
"I was conscious enough to know that he died from brain damage. I was silent all this time. I drank some water and they took me to a room, put something on the floor. The officials gave me an injection to put me to sleep."
Prisoners had to help Muzaffer Erdost get dressed. His arms and wrists were so swollen that the soldiers could not fit his wrists into the handcuffs. They put them on anyway but did not lock them. The prosecutor recorded his statement. The noncommissioned officers and soldiers said that they knew nothing of the incident and that they had beaten no one.
Three days later, on Nov. 10, he was released.
Ilhan Erdost is survived by his wife and two daughters, aged 3 and five months.