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RIGHTS > Doubts emerge in death of Armenian-Turk soldier

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

A key eyewitness changes his testimony in the trial of Sevag Şahin Balıkçı’s death, fueling suspicions that the Armenian-Turkish troop’s death last year could be more than just a simple accident as suggested earlier

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Ani Balıkçı and Garabet Balıkçı, parents of Sevag Şahin Balıkçı who was killed on Apr. 24, 2011 at a gendarmerie outpost in Batman, have been following the trial closely. DHA photo

Ani Balıkçı and Garabet Balıkçı, parents of Sevag Şahin Balıkçı who was killed on Apr. 24, 2011 at a gendarmerie outpost in Batman, have been following the trial closely. DHA photo

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

A military court has move forward a hearing into the suspicious death of soldier Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin, to today after a key witness changed his testimony.

“The witnesses were freed from pressure when they were discharged [from military service]. Perhaps they are doing some soul-searching. It is hard to tell,” lawyer Cem Halavurt, who represents Balıkçı’s family in court, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The Second Air Force Command Military Tribunal in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır ruled to hold the trial today rather than in March as witness Halil Ekşi altered his testimony regarding the circumstances under which Balıkçı lost his life on Apr. 24, 2011, the same date regarded as the anniversary of the events of 1915. 

“While we were drawing barbed wire on the day of the incident, [Pvt.] Kıvanç Ağaoğlu cocked his weapon, pointed it at our friend Sevag and pulled the trigger,” Halil Ekşi told the court in his most recent testimony regarding the incident that occurred at a gendarmerie outpost in the district of Kozluk in the southeastern province of Batman. 

Ekşi had confirmed that suspect Ağaoğlu had pointed his weapon at Sevag in his first testimony but then claimed the incident was an accident at a later hearing. Ekşi finally withdrew his initial testimony on Jan. 27, 2011, as Ağaoğlu’s sister and uncle had earlier called on him to testify in the defendant’s favor, he said.

“We are going to file a criminal complaint about Ağaoğlu’s sister and uncle and open a new lawsuit. Kıvanç runs the risk of getting arrested in this trial, and that is what we are going to request,” Halavurt said, adding that today’s hearing was going to be a critical one. 

The witness could change his testimony yet again, Halavurt said, adding that they were determined to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the matter cannot be resolved in Turkey. 

“It would not be right to connect or draw a parallel between the cases of [Balıkçı and murdered Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink]. The common point of intersection between the two cases, however, is that they are both racially motivated murders,” said Halavurt, who also represented the Dink family in court.

Sevag Balıkçı’s mother, Ani Balıkçı, told members of press shortly after her son’s death that she had not suspected the possibility of a racially motivated hate crime, indicating instead that the incident could have been an accident. 

“I have no clue about [whether the murder was about] nationalism or racism. As such, I did not even consider these [possibilities] until I attended the [crime scene] re-enactment and listened to the testimonies,” Ani Balıkçı told the Daily News.

“I feel proud of my identity, but people do not choose their identities,” she said, adding that she thought nationalism was meaningless. 

“Everyone is sending their kids to the military in fear. I hope the same agony that burned through me does not visit anyone else,” she said. 

“I buried my son into the depths of this land, ‘as Hrant put it,’” she added. 

January/30/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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Dennis Kavaz

2/2/2012 1:13:19 PM

Killing a man even in a fight is a terrible crime,taking a man’s life however because of ethnicity? Is unforgiving an insult to his army unit, to Turkey and to the dead mans family. The killer must be given the ultimate penalty. Alah rahmet eylesin

american american

1/31/2012 5:39:50 PM

no

Murat

1/30/2012 8:04:14 PM

Utter disgrace. Military should have handled this with more care, another stain on ther record. How can such a thing happen to a citizen, a young man, whose welfare is trusted to the state? Will justice be served this time?
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