The most common trend of surveillance states in the recent years is to chase after whistleblowers and attempt to limit citizens’ information sources that do not put forward the government version of events. Secret information, however, has lured the attention of millions of people at all times. In the last few years, the names of Julian Assange, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, and Edward Snowden have become more popular among ordinary civilians and people from all over the world have found courage in their deeds in revealing government secrets. The secrecy of private and personal information is one thing, yet it is a completely different thing when someone reveals information proving the wrongdoings of a government.
One name that has come to be associated with such deeds is Utku Kali from Turkey. Utku is a young soldier from the Turkish Armed Forces who happened to be the guard on duty at the expected time of release of secret intelligence documents concerning the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the Turkish Republic. On May 11th 2013, Reyhanli – a Turkish town near the Syrian border – was the target of a major explosion which left over 50 dead. Just 11 days after the explosion, on May 22nd, a hacker group, RedHack, which defines itself as Socialist-Marxist, uploaded a folder on the cloud sharing platform DropBox containing leaked documents regarding the Reyhanli attacks.
The Reyhanli attacks met with utter anger from many people in Turkey, and almost in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the anti-terror protests turned into anti-government protests and a ban was declared on broadcasts regarding the attacks. The suspicions of the locals, combined with the listlessness of government officials (no government official changed their schedule or visited the town, whereas opposition members paid visits and expressed condolences), triggered further protests towards the end of May which eventually became incorporated into the Gezi Park protests, which started on May 29th.
On the day the documents were uploaded, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, was very quick to declare that the individuals responsible had been caught and that justice would be served. However the leaked documents suggested that other sources were involved in the attacks, and moreover that state officials were aware of information concerning the date and place of the attacks. But a day after the whistleblowing occurred, Minister of Interior Muammer Guler stated that the real issue is that a leak took place in this situation and that a soldier thought to be connected to the leak was under arrest. On the same day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Do not take these documents seriously and do not publish them, for this would serve the interests of those who want to diminish Turkish interests.”
The arrested soldier in question was called Utku Kali. He has been made the scapegoat of the deadliest terrorist attack and a possible secret plan to drag Turkey into the Syrian civil war. While RedHack uploaded several other files regarding the detention of two soldiers and the arrest of one, Utku, and stated that they were still receiving further files from their informants, he was still under arrest. Two days after his arrest, Utku was put on trial at a Military Court and faced up to 25 years in prison on charges of “releasing the pre-explosion secret intelligence of unknown explosions.”
Utku was subject to maltreatment, even physical and psychological torture; all this brought him to the point of a nervous crisis and he was transferred from Erzurum Maresal Fevzi Cakmak Hospital to Istanbul Erenkoy Psychiatric Hospital. Utku’s sister and lawyer Ceren Kali says that he was declared “healthy” only two weeks after his treatment began in Erzurum. Upon his arrival to Sivas Military Prison, health examiners found that his suicidal tendencies still continued and ordered that he again be taken to a mental facility. Yet after eight days, this did not happen. Continuation of intensive maltreatment practice over eight amounts to torture. Ceren Kali says that Utku was strip-searched time after time, causing further psychological stress and humiliation, every time he had visitors in military prison. When he was being examined by medical professionals, doctor-patient confidentiality was breached and he never had privacy during his physical and psychological examinations and evaluations.
When Utku had a nervous crisis on the way back from the hospital, according to a sergeant, Utku swore at Turkish Armed Forces, his commanders, and the military structure in general. For this, another case was opened against him based on the infamous Article 301, “denigration of Turkishness.” He was put in absolute isolation when he was expecting to be declared innocent and released, and other people declared him an enemy of the state and harassed him, threw their lighters at him, and shouted “traitor.” Currently all his letters are being censored and his access to media organs (newspapers in prison) is being obstructed so that he can not see the news pieces in solidarity with him.
As RedHack continues to receive secret documents from their informants in the Turkish military, Utku’s case reveals further injustice each day. Even before the case has been taken into court, too many people have declared Utku guilty and caused irreversible damage to his psychological health. At the moment, Private Kali is a survivor of suicide attempts, nervous crises, deteriorated health conditions and months of imprisonment. Yet, thousands of people in Turkey, as well as many academics and journalists stand in solidarity with Utku as his trial, to be held on October 21st, 2013, approaches.
As a last note, it might be appropriate to remind you of the meaning of the name “Utku”:
“Grand victory achieved through tough struggles and hard labor”