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Turkish prosecutor refuses to hear Dersim 'genocide' claims

ISTANBUL - Daily News with Radikal | 3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM | İSMAİL SAYMAZ

The first judicial decision on the events of 1938 in Dersim, described as a “massacre” by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has ruled that there are no grounds for a trial.

The first judicial decision on the events of 1938 in Dersim, described as a “massacre” by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has ruled that there are no grounds for a trial.

Lack of evidence, an expired statute of limitations and failure to meet the definition of “genocide” were cited in the decision regarding a military operation conducted more than 70 years ago to suppress a reported rebellion in the area of Dersim, now Tunceli, which killed thousands of people.

The Hozat District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tunceli rejected the complaint from 86-year-old Efo Bozkurt, who lost his mother, father and five siblings in the operation. The complaint was one of three made by the elderly survivor of the operation.

According to his application, Bozkurt’s father, Keko, a 43-year-old veteran of the Independence War; mother, Kuhari; sisters Havi, 16, Eyti, 12, and Besi, 6; and brothers Mehmet, 4, and Niyazi, 2, were all killed by gendarmes. Bozkurt was injured but managed to escape.

But authorities rejected Bozkurt’s case, saying in part that “it should be recorded as a historical fact that the state did not intervene with any of its innocent citizens who did not join the rebellion.”

According to Prosecutor Necati Kurçenli, complaints made in terms of “genocide” or “crimes against humanity” cannot stand because such terms were not featured in the Turkish Penal Code and the statute of limitations to file a murder complaint is long-expired.

The prosecutor’s office said the issue of “genocide” was included in Article 76 of the new Turkish Penal Code, but added it was defined as a systematic plan to be carried out against a group of people for political, philosophical, racial or religious reasons. The office evaluated the Republic’s 1930s operation as an attempt to “protect its national unity,” not as a systematic attack against a group of people.

Hüseyin Aygün, lawyer for Bozkurt, said the prosecutor did not do anything but take his client’s testimony, saying he had failed to visit the alleged mass grave in Bozkurt’s village or listen to other elderly victims.

Believing the statute of limitations could be changed for such an incident, they will object to the decision, Aygün said they would object to the decision and would take it to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

“I knew it would be hard to get a result but the statements of the prime minister and the government had created hope,” the lawyer said, adding that the prosecutor’s justification for his decision only applied to participants in the rebellion, a group with which he said his client’s family had no connection.

Touching on the Dersim incident at a rally in the northern province of Çorum on Aug. 18, Erdoğan said: “What lies beneath the Dersim massacre? Tens of thousands of people were massacred. Tunceli was massacred. Who massacred them; which mentality? The CHP [Republican People’s Party] mentality massacred [them].”

In 1938, Turkey was a one-party regime under the CHP, which is now the main opposition party. Current CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is from Tunceli, responded to the prime minister’s statement, saying the party has no concerns about opening the archives on the matter.

Following this statement, State Minister Hüseyin Çelik said the archives of the Prime Ministry were open but that those of the chief of General Staff were not.

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