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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05YEREVAN1625 2005-09-08 10:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

HOLD THE PRESSES: TURKISH SCHOLAR RETURNS TO U.S.

Tags:   PREL PHUM PGOV TU GG AM 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 001625 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CACEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2025
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV TU GG AM
SUBJECT: HOLD THE PRESSES: TURKISH SCHOLAR RETURNS TO U.S.
READY TO TALK

REF: YEREVAN 1479

Classified By: Ambassador John M. Evans for 1.4 (b,d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (C) Yektan Turkyilmaz, the Turkish citizen and Duke
University doctoral student arrested for attempting to
smuggle controlled books and manuscripts out of Armenia
(reftel), departed Yerevan for his home in Durham, North
Carolina on September 2. Despite claims in court to the
contrary, Turkyilmaz told us that he was aware of the export
prohibitions on the books he purchased, and that he had
attempted to bribe airport employees (as he claimed he
typically did during previous visits). The Yerevan court
that convicted Turkyilmaz returned volumes of confiscated
research materials and kept all but the modern books and
manuscripts. Pleased with his release and with Embassy
Yerevan assistance, Turkyilmaz said he nonetheless planned to
"discuss publicly" the "human rights abuses" he claims he
suffered and witnessed during his incarceration. Turkyilmaz
said prison guards never physically abused him, but that he
witnessed interrogators "systematically beating and raping"
other prisoners. End Summary.



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TURKISH SCHOLAR ADMITS GUILT, PLEASED WITH OUTCOME


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2. (C) In meetings with us after his release from the
Armenian National Security Service (NSS) detention center,
Yektan Turkyilmaz said he came to Armenia to buy books for
his collection as he had done "many, many times before."
Turkyilmaz admitted to us he was aware of the export
prohibitions on the books he purchased, and that he had
attempted to bribe airport employees (a standard procedure,
he explained, during each of his previous visits). In a
slideshow he displayed for us on his returned laptop,
Turkyilmaz proudly reviewed pictures of his personal
collection of more than ten thousand antique Armenian-,
Ottoman Turkish-, and Kurdish-language books, many of which
he said he had purchased in, and already illegally
transported from, Armenia. Though the court confiscated
eighty-eight of his recent purchases, Turkyilmaz had
digitally copied parts from each of the books important to
his research along with thousands of pages of documents from
the Armenian National Archives. The court returned his
research materials, digital and computer equipment, and cell
phone.



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INTERROGATORS ALLEGE SPYING, NOT SMUGGLING


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3. (C) Turkyilmaz said prison guards never physically abused
him, but that "KGB" interrogators tried to intimidate him
into admitting that he was spying for the U.S. or Turkey.
Turkyilmaz claimed that within the first 72 hours following
his arrest, interrogators prohibited him from placing phone
calls, appointed an attorney who forcefully encouraged him to
sign a statement admitting his guilt, shouted derogatory
ethnic slurs, and threatened physical harm. The
interrogation turned to questioning about the books only
after "days and days" of assertions and denials about his
"true motives," Turkyilmaz claimed. At one point, according
to Turkyilmaz, his NSS interrogators claimed they were
members of ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of
Armenia) "the group that assassinated Turkish diplomats in
the 70s and 80s." "Do you know who we are? Do you know what
we do to Turks?" he quoted them as saying.



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SCHOLAR ALLEGES PRISONER ABUSE, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS


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4. (C) Turkyilmaz claimed to "know for sure" that NSS
interrogators are systematically beating prisoners at the
Yerevan detention center. He drew a diagram of his cell
(Number 28), and a small port window where he claimed he
witnessed officers escorting or dragging talking or screaming
"Russian women" to showers, where they either resisted, or
sometimes engaged without resistance, in sex. Turkyilmaz
estimated the detention center holds approximately 50 male
and female Armenian, Russian and Kurdish prisoners. He
asserted he heard "awful screams," and saw people who NSS
officers had "beaten horribly." Guards allowed some inmates
to "destroy" other prisoners as they stood by without
interfering, he claimed. Interrogators periodically escorted
his own cell mates "Ara Bostanciyan," "Ardavst Ghazaryan,"
and "Artur Sarkisyan" upstairs where Turkyilmaz claimed he
could also hear them scream. They returned "black, blue, and
bleeding," he claimed. "Many of the prisoners were either
systematically beaten or raped."



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COMMENT: TURKYILMAZ READY TO RAISE ISSUES WITH PRESS


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5. (C) Turkyilmaz's Duke University advisor Orin Starn, who
attended the court hearings, told us that he advised
Turkyilmaz to avoid negative press statements until safely
out of Armenia. As he prepared to depart, Turkyilmaz told us
that he looked forward to the opportunity to speak to the
press freely and openly about his ordeal, and speculated that
comments critical of the Armenian Government would help him
smooth over relations with Turkish authorities. Turkyilmaz,
a Kurd who speaks Armenian and has acknowledged the events of
1915 in the Ottoman Empire as "genocide," predicted he will
have legal difficulties when he returns to Turkey, and
asserted to us that Turkish authorities have already
contacted his family to inquire about his anticipated date of
return.



6. (C) Turkyilmaz told us he had been arrested in Turkey for
participating in student demonstrations, but declined to give
further details. He avoided answering questions about his
U.S. student visa application, in which we suspect he did not
acknowledge the prior arrest.
EVANS