Following the 1999 indictment against 11 defendants and 2005 indictment against five defendants were joined in 2010, the trial came to be known as the trial of Main JITEM.
Hamit Yıldırım, who was pointed by former JITEM hit man Abdülkadir Aygan as the perpetrator of the 20 September 1992 murder of journalist/writer Musa Anter, was arrested on 29 June 2012. This arrest prevented the statute of limitations from expiring. The final indictment on this murder dated 25 June 2013 was accepted by the Diyarbakır 7th Assize Court on 5 June 2013.
In 2014, the Diyarbakır 7th Assize Court accepted the request that the trial of Musa Anter’s murder to be joined with the trial of Main JITEM. In 2015, the trial of Musa Anter murder was transferred to Ankara on alleged security concerns. The Ankara 6th Assize Court objected to the decision of joinder of trials. This objection was considered by the 5th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, which ultimately decided that the two trials be joined on 29 January 2016.
In this trial, 18 defendants were held responsible for the killing of 13 individuals, one of whom is the writer and journalist Musa Anter. Suspects Mahmut Yıldırım (code-named Yeşil (Green)), Aziz Turan (Abdülkadir Aygan), Savaş Gevrekçi, and Hamit Yıldırım are charged with “plotting to kill, acting as accomplices in this plot, and inciting the public to armed rebellion” under Articles 450/4-5 and 149 of the former Turkish Penal Code. The suspects of the trial of Main JITEM, members of a special operations team, were charged with “forming an entity with the aim of engaging in criminal activity and killing more than one persons” as well.
In the hearing held on 14 March 2016, former head of the National Intelligence Service’s Counter-Terrorism Unit Mehmet Eymür and Ankara Police Commissioner at the time Orhan Taşanlar testified. The court decided that in the next hearing retired Gendarmerie Brigadier General Veli Küçük, and Director of the Police Intelligence Unit at the time Hüseyin Özbilgin to be heard as witnesses. In addition, the court rejected a demand by the lawyers of both victims and defendants that their trials to be heard separately.
On 25 April 2016 Veli Küçük*, who was expected to appear as a witness before the court, sent in a plead and did not come to court, while Police Intelligence Department Chief, Hüseyin Bilgin, gave his testimony as a witness. Orhan Miroğlu, who was injured during the murder of Musa Anter, was present in the courtroom with his lawyers. The court decided that Veli Küçük be subpoenaed again to appear as a witness; that Mehmet Eymür, who had testified as a witness in the previous hearing, be subpoenaed again to bring the documents concerning the interrogation of Mahmut Yıldırım before the court.
Veli Küçük, who was expected to be present in court as witness in the 20 June 2016 hearing, did not come. Legal representatives of the victims asked that a notification be sent to Küçük so that he can give his testimony via SEGBIS*, that a copy of the documents sent by the National Intelligence Service to the case file of the trial of Ankara JITEM be added to the present case file, and that defendant Hamit Yıldırım’s detention be continued. The request of the lawyers of the Anter family that former Governor Ünal Erkan, Parliament Member Sinan Yerlikaya, and former Minister of Interior Meral Akşener be heard as witnesses in court was rejected.
Between the hearings, the Diyarbakır 3rd Assize Court heard Nevin Soyukaya and Samet Aydın as witnesses on 22 September 2016. Veli Küçük, on the other hand, gave his statement in the scheduled hearing on 26 September 2016 via SEGBIS. Since Abdülkadir Aygan did not consent to give his statement via SEGBIS, it was decided for certain that his deposition should be taken in Sweden. It was also decided to send a dispatch to the Ministry of Justice so that both the parties would be present while the statements are being taken.
At the hearing held on 28 December 2016, defendant Ali Ozansoy (Ahmet Turan Altaylı), who is also a confessor, gave his testimony. The video interview of another defendant, Abdulkadir Aygan, was watched in the courtroom and recorded. The court decided to hear Cahit Aydın, former Commander of JITEM as a witness.
During the hearing held on 14 March 2017, Aziz Aksu was heard as a witness. Cahit Aydin, who was expected to be heard as a witness, requested that he appear as a witness via SEGBIS since he “sensed he was being bullied and did not feel at ease that his security was assured.” His request was accepted by the court. Of the lawyers who attended the hearing, Selim Okçuoğlu drew attention to the fact that decisions made during the last hearing were not being executed. Per the demand of Selim Okçuoğlu, the court decided to ask the Gendarmerie General Command about the specifics of Ahmet Cem Ersever’s position at the time and the date when he left Diyarbakır.
During the hearing of 7 June 2017, Head of the Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit at the time, Hüseyin Özbilgin, and Muhsin Kızılkaya, former MP from AKP and working for the Özgür Gündem newspaper at the time, were heard as witnesses. Concerning the testimony of Abdülkadir Aygan, the letter from the Ministry of Justice’s International Law and Foreign Relations General Directorate informed the parties that questions be prepared and presented to the court, following which, the date set by the government of Sweden would be communicated to both sides.
In the hearing held on 27 September 2017, Mehmet Sinanoğlu, Nevin Soyukaya, and Turgut Atalay gave their statements via SEGBIS. Their attendant lawyer asked that Hamit Yıldırım, who had been released following the previous hearing, since his 5-year prison term was up on 28 June 2017, be imprisoned again based on the Article 141 of the Decree no. 694. The court refused this request as well as the request of the defense that the judicial control decision be either lifted or narrowed down, requiring that it continue as before.
In the 14 November 2018 hearing, the court accepted the request of the legal representatives of victims that retired Lieutenant General İsmail Hakkı Pekin, former Intelligence Chief of the General Staff, who had recently alleged on TV that defendant Mahmut Yıldırım is still alive be heard as a witness. Pekin stated that he knew that Mahmut Yıldırım was still alive, and it was possible that he was in a witness protection program.
In the hearing on 20 March 2019, the General Directorate of Security claimed that no record of Mahmut Yıldırım was found in any witness protection program. Former Gendarmerie Head of Intelligence retired Sergeant Hüseyin Oğuz also testified in this hearing.
In the hearing held on 3 July 2019, the trial of Ayten Öztürk’s 1994 disappearance, which was being heard by the Elazığ 1st Assize Court, was joined with this case. Legal representatives of the victims objected to this move, stating that it was made because local courts were skeptical about trying “sensitive” cases. Selim Okçu, the legal representative of the Anter family, stated that the court stopped making any progress on the trial of Anter murder that they will ask for their trial to be separated once the discovery of evidence is completed.
In the hearing on 25 September 2019, former Governor Ünal Erkan testified. He rejected the claim that he gave an interview to the journalist witness Nedret Ersanel after the murder of Musa Anter. On questions regarding JITEM, he stated, ‘I will not respond.’
In the 25 December 2019 hearing, journalist Ferit Aslan, who was detained and tortured while attempting to go to Musa Anter’s murder scene, was heard as a witness. Aslan stated that at the time, he was a reporter on call on the night shift in the region and did not know that it was Musa Anter who was killed when he was attempting to go to the murder scene after receiving a tip. Aslan stated that he was detained and continuously asked, ‘Do you know who was murdered? Who sent you? Why did they send you?’ as he was being tortured. Aslan also stated that after he saw Mahmut Yıldırım’s never before seen pictures in a book released by Yıldırım’s son, he could identify that it was Mahmut Yıldırım, aka Yeşil, who had detained him. Bedran Akdağ, who was a village guard and had penned a book on enforced disappearances, also testified but stated that he did not know any of the defendants.
* JITEM (Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terror Unit).
** Veli Küçük is a retired Turkish brigadier-general. He is thought to be the founder of the JITEM intelligence arm of the Turkish Gendarmerie.
*** SEGBIS (Audio and Visual Information System).