A document sent to the Bakırköy 13th High Criminal Court, bearing the signature of İstanbul Gendarmerie Command Deputy Commander Col. Selahattin Acara, says no video footage from the day of the operation -- called Back to Life, a name given by the Interior Ministry of the time, which had given the order to suppress the riots -- could be located in the gendarmerie archives.
On Dec. 29, 2000, the gendarmerie, under orders of the Interior Ministry, conducted a major operation simultaneously in 20 prisons across Turkey to stop the many hunger strikes the inmates were on in protest of the new F-type prison systems, which were structured as isolated prison cells as opposed to wards hosting many inmates together. The Back to Life operation resulted in the deaths of 32 people.
Last year, a court case was opened regarding the operation, 10 years after the incident. None of the commanders who conducted the operation or the civilian bureaucrats who were in charge are on trial, but 39 people who participated in the operation as privates stand as suspects.
In the latest hearing in the trial, lawyers for the victims submitted the book “Bayrampaşa Cezaevi Gerçeği” (The Truth about Bayrampaşa Prison), written in 2007 by retired Maj. Zeki Bingöl, who was the operation coordinator at the time. The lawyer wants Bingöl to testify as a witness in the trial and recount some of the points he mentions in this book, such as the claim that a copy of the operation logs -- said by the gendarmerie to be missing -- actually exists. Bingöl also states in his book that the operation at Bayrampaşa was recorded on two cameras. The court requested the said footage from the Gendarmerie General Command after co-plaintiff lawyers demanded they be shared with the court based on Bingöl's account.
In addition to Bingöl, the co-plaintiff lawyers also expect then-Chief Prosecutor Ferzan Çitici and Prosecutor Fikret Ünalan to testify as witnesses in the coming sessions of the trial. The court has also decided to have the 39 suspects and the victims meet face-to-face in the courtroom to compare accounts.
The next session in the trial is scheduled for May 25.