Saturday Mothers: Where is the body of Maksut Tepeli?

27-year-old teacher Maksut Tepeli was tortured to death in Istanbul 36 years ago. His body is still missing today. The Istanbul Saturday Mothers demand that the perpetrators be punished.

For the 776th time, the initiative of the Saturday Mothers in Istanbul protested against the practice of “disappearances” in state custody and demanded that the perpetrators be punished. The traditional rally site on Galatasaray Square in the busy pedestrian zone was closed prematurely by the police as is customary. The Saturday mothers could only voice their demands in a side street in front of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD). The mothers were joined by HDP MPs Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Oya Ersoy and Musa Piroğlu, former HDP MP Ferhat Encü, CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu, actress Nur Sürer and numerous other people.

The theme of today’s action was Maskut Tepeli, who disappeared 36 years ago. The body of the then 28-year-old teacher was never found. He was a member of the teachers’ association TÖB-DER and was living in Erzincan when he was arrested on 4 February 1980. After four months he was released from prison and moved to Istanbul.

On February 2, 1984, he went to a friend’s apartment in the Küçükbakkalköy district of Istanbul. When he noticed that the door had been broken open as he approached the apartment, he tried to escape but was shot by policemen who had been waiting in the apartment. Despite losing a lot of blood, he was taken wrapped in a blanket and taken to the political department of police in Gayrettepe.

According to three witnesses, who were also arrested, he was tortured by the police to such an extent that he fell into a coma on February 5, 1984 and was taken to the military hospital Haydarpaşa. Since then he has disappeared. The authorities denied that Tepeli was ever arrested. Years later, relatives learned that he died in hospital on 6 February 1984 and was buried anonymously at the cemetery Helvacıdede. The exact location of the grave is unknown. No legal proceedings have been brought against the police officers involved in the arrest and interrogation: Rahmi Kaya, Servet Bozkurt, Hasip Dönmez, Zafer Elemen, Şeyhmuz Altın, İlhami Öztürk and Hikmet Taşdelen. After all legal possibilities in Turkey were exhausted, lawyers brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2017.