Slain history teacher Gökhan Açıkkolu was known for his links to the Gulen movement before he passed away, a senior Education Ministry bureaucrat tweeted Wednesday.
Yusuf Tekin, the Undersecretary to Turkey’s Education Ministry said in a series of tweets over the past day that Açıkkolu was not found “innocent or something.” His words came in response to the news articles that Açıkkolu has been recently reinstated to his job. Media outlets claimed that Açıkkolu was found innocent 19 months after his death.
His suspension was revoked only because the ministry is no longer able to impose this administrative measure since Açıkkolu is dead, Tekin said.
“Passing of a human being is always saddening,” Tekin said adding that “but…the ministry has legal presumption that the mentioned teacher was affiliated with the FETÖ.”
Gökhan Açıkkolu, a 42-year-old history teacher who was tortured to death while in police custody in the wake of the coup attempt, was reinstated to his job one-and-a-half years after his death, according to a notice submitted by the ministry to his wife, who also lost her job as a teacher as part of the government’s post-coup crackdown against the Gulen group.
Turkish government blames the Gulen movement for the July 15, 2016 failed coup and calls it FETÖ, short for the alleged Fethullahist Terror Group. The Gulenists deny involvement in the coup and any terror activities. Some 150,000 people have lost their jobs mostly over Gulen links and over 150,000 have passed through custody since the summer of 2016.
Açıkkolu beaten in custody
Açıkkollu was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and remained in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture. He was never officially interrogated, and the police did not even take a statement from him. Instead, he was taken from his cell every day to face torture and rushed to the hospital when his condition deteriorated, only to be shipped back to detention. He told doctors about the abuse and torture; yet, in some cases his statements were not even registered in medical reports, and evidence of physical abuse was covered up under pressure from the police.
Açıkkollu was beaten, slapped in the face, kicked in the rib cage, kneed in the back and his head banged against a wall. His medical check-up before he was put in detention showed no signs of any heart troubles; yet, he was pronounced dead due to heart failure. When he collapsed in his cell, emergency services were belatedly called and he died in detention, although official records were doctored to indicate that he expired at the hospital.
Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), said in a report that Açıkkollu had died from a heart attack stemming from the torture to which he was subjected.
Açıkkollu’s family learned of his death when they were called to the İstanbul Institute of Forensic Medicine, where Açıkkollu’s ill treatment continued even in death. They were told the funeral could be held on condition that he would be buried in a graveyard set aside by the Greater İstanbul Municipality for alleged “traitors,” despite the fact he had not been tried, nor even interrogated. Imams assigned by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) had refused to conduct the funeral prayer for Açıkkollu.
His family had to embalm the body themselves and took him to his hometown in Konya province in their own car. Here, too, the imam of the local mosque would not officiate at the funeral because of instructions issued by the Religious Affairs Directorate that “the funeral prayer will not be performed for traitors.” As a result, his last rites were said by his close relatives.