Court ‘cannot find’ key secret witness
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
This file photo shows alleged drug lord Urfi Çetinkaya being carried to the court. Çetinkaya has been on trial under arrest on drug charges since 2004,Police officials and prosecutors have lost contact with a key secret witness in an ongoing drug trafficking case, according to the lawyer of a prominent suspect, who said the secret witness’ claims had paved the way for the jailing of an alleged drug cartel leader.
The so-called “Last Tango” case started in 2001 and Urfi Çetinkaya, who is claimed to have produced and trafficked large quantities of heroin by establishing a gang, had been given 24 years in jail.
However, the Court of Appeals reversed this judgment and continued trying 15 suspects in 2008.
Çetinkaya, who has been in jail since 2004, appeared before the 10th High Criminal Court recently with two other suspects, but it has since emerged that secret witness “X1” was not known by any police or judicial officials.
Çetinkaya’s lawyer, Hatip Mercan, claims that the secret witnesses’ testimonies are unreliable and were fabricated by police officers. “These lost secret witness’ words were the only evidence of the court board,” she said.
Mercan also said the legal method of taking testimony from secret witnesses was violated by the police at time.
The secret witness X1’s identity and address information have not been kept as a hidden file by the police, and it has emerged that the secret witness never actually existed, Mercan said in a letter addressed to the court board. The letter was written after receiving a response from the Istanbul police force regarding X1’s address and personal information.
“[Secret witness] X1’s identity and address information were not recorded in the report held by a police officer [Uğur Akbal] and the police officer lost his contact with the witness,” the Istanbul police said in response to Mercan’s query. Evidence from X1 was the prosecutor’s main basis in charging Çetinkaya, according to reports.Mercan has also made an official application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Turkey for violating Çetinkaya’s right to fair trial, effective remedy and freedom.
Turkey says the application is groundless and demands that it be overruled. The ECHR has requested Turkey’s defense.
Çetinkaya became famous as “an international drug baron,” in the 1990s for smuggling drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan to European countries such as the Netherlands and Spain.
He was put on trial in Madrid in September 1991 for the first time for carrying 58 kilograms of heroin. Then in June 1992, he was arrested by Spanish police for the first time.
In February 1998 he was arrested again in Madrid. He then returned to Turkey in 1998, but was paralyzed in May 1988 in Istanbul after being shot by police for not obeying an order to stop. Despite the impediment, he allegedly continued drug trafficking.