Turkish ex-prisoner claims Guinness World Record for tunnel digging
Veyis Sami Türkmen (L), Adem "The Mole" Kütük (C) and Selman Altınöz are seen in the ‘prison-break selfie'Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman cheated when he recently escaped from prison through a “record-long” tunnel, a Turkish ex-convict has reportedly said, claiming he and his friends had actually dug the longest tunnel ever 27 years ago.
“We are victimized. Mexicans claim the record now, but a 1.5-km section of their tunnel was dug from outside of the prison,” ex-convict Veyis Sami Türkmen said, as quoted by daily Habertürk on Aug. 7.
Türkmen and his comrades were jailed after the 1980 military coup, like thousands of other left-wing activists. They escaped from the Kırşehir Prison in central Anatolia on Sept. 17, 1988.
First ‘prison-break selfie’ in Turkey
With his two friends, Türkmen was in the headlines of Turkish newspapers the next day with a photo showing them in the tunnel, which some have described as the first “prison-break selfie” in Turkey.
Adem Kütük, one of the figures in the photo, died three years ago, according to Habertürk. The other figure, Selman Altınöz, still lives in southern Turkey, out of the media spotlight. However, the third figure, Veyis Sami Türkmen, broke his silence days after Guzman’s latest escape in Mexico hit international headlines.
Guzman, known as one of the world’s most wanted drug kingpins, was first jailed after being extradited from Guatemala in 1993 and escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001. On Feb. 22, 2014, he was arrested again in the seaside resort town of Mazatlan and escaped again on July 11, 2015, from one of Mexico’s most secure prisons via a sophisticated, mile-long tunnel that originated in his cell’s shower.
“In reality, we still hold the record,” Türkmen said, insisting only the part of the tunnel which was dug by the prisoners inside the prison should be counted if there were a Guinness World Records category for this endeavor.
Laureate of ‘Golden Mole Prize’
Perhaps not Guinness, but their efforts were recognized by their fellow inmates, who awarded the digging team the “Golden Mole Prize” when they managed to dig over two meters three times in a row in 1988.
Türkmen proudly told Habertürk they had then dug a 118-meter-long tunnel from the prison cell’s toilet to the outside world in five-and-a-half months by using the iron bars of their bunk beds.
“We had planned to inaugurate the tunnel on the eight anniversary of the military coup, but we could finish it five days late,” Habertürk quoted him as saying.
A total of 18 convicts had managed to escape from prison on Sept. 17, 1988, but the three buddies were detained in the southern province of Mersin the following day while they were trying to flee to Syria.
“We were then sent to Malatya Prison where we would dig another tunnel for 2.5 years. Only 1-2 meters of distance was left, but the Court of Appeals ruled for our release. So we abandoned the tunnel and walked out of prison,” Türkmen added.
Türkmen now lives in the southern province in Adana and is still active in politics. The three ex-convicts had met years after their escape and before the death of Kütük, who was known during their jail time as “The Mole.”