Turkey demands release of 16-year-old Turkish boy held in Armenia
İsmail Saymaz - KARS
Turkish police have contacted Armenian police via Interpol to demand the release of a 16-year-old boy who allegedly crossed the border almost two months ago.
“Request to get into contact with the relevant authorities for the immediate release of the person, for whom there is no warrant issued, has been conveyed to the Interpol units in Armenia,” said Turkish Interpol after their communication with their Armenian counterparts on Sept. 12.
Umut Ali Özmen, who lives with his family in the Akyaka district of Turkey’s northeastern province of Kars, was captured by Armenian security forces on July 24 after crossing the border near Şiş Hill while herding cattle, according to a CCTV footage of a Turkish border post.
“The kid was curious and I think he crossed the border after making a bet with his friends. He was caught and arrested,” said Kars Governor Rahmi Doğan.
“Armenians allege that he was taking photographs of some huts. Thus they may have taken the issue to another level. ‘Let’s deal with it via diplomatic channels,’ they told us,” he added.
Doğan also said they usually resolve such incidents by contacting their local Armenian counterparts.
In a meeting at the closed border gate on July 25, Armenian authorities told Turkish authorities that the Turkish boy would be taken to court.
Punched and kicked
The Turkish boy told his family in a phone call that the Armenian guards punched and kicked him because he does not understand the commands in the Armenian language.
“He is a student. He is successful. I want his immediate release. He has been held for two months although it is obvious that he is a Turkish national and he has the identity card with him. We are deeply worried. My child has been tortured and beaten,” said his father, Mustafa Özmen, who went to Armenia to see his son in the prison where he is kept near the Armenian capital Yerevan.
Armenian authorities said they have been waiting for the official identity details of Umut Ali Özmen to be sure that he is not awaiting a trial in Turkey.
Since Turkey and Armenia have no active diplomatic relations because of disputes over historic incidents, Georgia has been acting as an intermediator in the case.
“I called the Turkish embassy in Georgia twice. ‘We have sent a diplomatic note twice,’ they told me. The process is very slow,” Umut Ali Özmen’s uncle, Esat Özmen, said.