A video recording obtained by Zaman shows four military officers around the wreckage of the BBP helicopter. One of the officers is seen removing devices from the helicopter's front panel.
The Malatya Prosecution Office on Saturday requested the names of the four military officers in a video sent to President Abdullah Gül regarding a helicopter crash in which Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five others lost their lives in 2009.
The Zaman daily on Saturday managed to acquire a copy of the video that was sent to President Gül by an unknown military officer. Four military officers can be seen in the video, where one is seen to be removing the black box, containing two recording devices, from the front panel of the helicopter, while two others watch. A fourth officer is thought to be the one recording the video.
President Gül's statements about the helicopter crash on Friday have made it almost certain that the crash was no accident. Referring to the findings of the State Audit Institution (DDK), he said DDK inspectors had reason beyond suspicion to believe that the recording devices on the helicopter had been taken after the crash, noting that it would be tremendously difficult to uninstall the box.
Yazıcıoğlu's death, which was initially reported as an accident, has also been racked with controversy, especially since investigators discovered that all military and civilian radars near the crash site mysteriously blacked out for a couple of minutes at the time of the crash. Gül said the DDK was looking into the absence of the black box. “Can you imagine? It was uninstalled with special instruments. Our inspectors have established this as fact.” Gül also noted that he had been sent another video showing individuals removing the recording devices, which was taken by rescue workers who were checking the bodies at the crash site, wrongly assuming they were carrying out a regular rescue operation. There are increasing calls for the judiciary to shed light on the helicopter crash and eliminate the suspicion surrounding it.
The 48-second-long video in question, which had been missing for two years, shows the people who were involved in removing the recording devices from the helicopter. The footage shows the army offices by the wreckage, where one of them can be seen removing the devices from the front panel of the helicopter with an orange screw driver while the other officers watch him. The third soldier is smoking a cigarette a few meters away from the wreckage and also observes the officer as he removes the devices. The soldier recording the video describes the scene as, “Man, look at this altitude; it's like, as if the mountain is going to fall on us.”
Experts think that the removed parts, described as the “brain of the helicopter” by President Gül, could be ARGUS 5000 CE and SKYMAP IIIC GPS apparatus. This can save a flight's information from start to end, the altitude and speed. A video recording made by the Transportation Ministry's Accident Investigation Team four days after the crash, on March, 29, 2009 showed the devices on the wrecked helicopter. However, photographs taken six days following the incident, show that these devices were no longer, and have since remained missing. Over the past two years, investigators could not find any information regarding how these devices were lost.
Chain of command in removing recording devices must be taken into consideration
Legal experts state that the video recording, which came to light recently, clearly shows that the truth about the helicopter crash was hidden for two years. Experts say that once the military officers in the video are identified, they must be relieved of their duties immediately and the chain of command must be investigated seriously.
Faik Tarımcıoğlu, a retired military prosecutor, has expressed concern over the fact the truth of the crash was hidden and said, “The death of Yazıcıoğlu can no longer be described as an accident with the latest information, which makes the claims of sabotage stronger.” Tarımcıoğlu stated that prosecutors should be taking the claims of sabotage very seriously, which will bring out the chain of command.
A retired military judge, Veysi Savaş, asserted that in such situations, the first person to question is the chief of defense, adding that people who have given military officers the order to go and remove helicopter parts should be questioned immediately. Savaş explained the situation as clear spoliation of evidence and prosecutors should carefully investigate this.
Retired Public Prosecutor Reşat Petek also said that the military officers in the video should be relieved of their duties without delay.