The helicopter crashed in Kahramanmaraş as BBP leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five others were returning from an election rally in March 2009. Thousands of rescue workers tried in vain to locate the crash site, despite snowstorms and heavy fog, in a mountainous area of more than 30 square kilometers. The victims' snow-covered bodies were eventually discovered by local villagers 72 hours after the crash.
The photos, posted by the rotahaber.com news portal on Wednesday, are likely to strengthen claims that Yazıcıoğlu's death was not accidental.
Last year a video from the site of the crash, which was sent to President Abdullah Gül by an unidentified military officer, showed four military officers at the scene, one of whom was seen removing the black box containing two recording devices from the front panel of the helicopter while two others watched. A fourth officer was thought to be the one recording the video.
The photos released on Wednesday show that members of the Accident Investigation Team of the Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM) -- identified as Feridun Seren, Mehmet Sevdim and Kerem Mumcuoğlu -- were also present at the site of the crash and were taking photos of the soldiers as they uninstalled the device from the helicopter.
The photos reveal that the front panel of the helicopter was completely removed. Holding the panel in their hands, civilian and military members of the team smile in the photos.
Yazıcıoğlu's death, which was initially reported as an accident, has been riddled with controversy, particularly since investigators discovered that all military and civilian radars near the crash site had mysteriously blacked out for a couple of minutes around the time of the crash.
Experts believe that the removed parts, described as the “brain of the helicopter” by President Gül, could be ARGUS 5000 CE and SKYMAP IIIC GPS apparatuses, which can save information from a flight from start to finish, such as its altitude and speed. A video recording made by the Ministry of Transportation's Accident Investigation Team on March 29, 2009, four days after the crash, showed the devices still present on the wrecked helicopter. However, photographs taken six days after the incident show that these devices were no longer present, and they have remained missing ever since. Over the past three years investigators could find no information regarding the loss of these devices.
A report prepared last year by the State Audit Institution (DDK) on the Yazıcıoğlu helicopter crash pronounced the deaths “suspicious.”
The DDK initiated an extensive investigation into the accident in February 2010, on orders of President Gül.
The council's report said areas where the helicopter was most likely to have crashed were not searched by security forces and that efforts were mainly focused on an area suggested by an amateur search and rescue worker.