Trial on Sivas Massacre dropped despite protests
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Police used tear gas to disperse a group of demonstrators protesting the court ruling on the Sivas Massacre trial yesterday. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
n Ankara court dropped a high-profile case over the deadly 1993 torching of a Sivas hotel yesterday, ruling that the charges against the suspects exceeded the statute of limitations.
Thousands of people protested the ruling outside the court, and clashes broke out between the police and demonstrators, as lawyers for the families of the victims said they would appeal the ruling.
Commenting on the dropped case, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “Let it be for the best.”
Thirty-three intellectuals and two hotel employees perished during an Alevi cultural festival on July 2, 1993, when an Islamist mob torched the Madımak Hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas. The mob was agitated mainly by the presence of popular atheist writer Aziz Nesin, who was then translating Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses.” Two of the arsonists also died.
Judge Dündar Örsdemir said the torching could not be exempt from the statute of limitations as a crime against humanity because such exceptions apply only to cases in which the perpetrators are public servants.
Lawyer Şenal Sarıhan had argued the torching must be considered a crime against humanity and urged the court “to stop evil by making it known that crimes against humanity will always be prosecuted.”
The trial yesterday was attended by relatives of the victims, as well as deputies of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Thousands of protestors gathered outside the Ankara Courthouse to protest the ruling. Police clashed with a group that attempted to march down Atatürk Boulevard. The crowd threw sticks and stones at the police, who responded with pepper spray and water cannons.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called the ruling a “disgrace” and said the suspects had gone on to live their lives for years without being caught.
“The [ruling] Justice and Development Party [AKP] is responsible for this. For the most part, it was AKP deputies who worked as lawyers for the perpetrators. They are now in Parliament. I’m sure that the prime minister is saying ‘good, we were saved by the statue of limitations,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said at his party’s parliamentary group meeting yesterday.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy leader Gültan Kışanak said democracy had been “massacred” and vowed activists would continue to pursue the case.
Verdict no suprise, says poet victim's daughter
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
A Turkish court’s decision yesterday to drop the case into the 1993 Sivas massacre due to the statute of limitations is unsurprising, a daughter of one of the victims said while expressing determination to continue pursuing the matter nonetheless.
“There is the judicial process that proceeded lawlessly for 19 years. Some 15,000 people were involved in the [massacre], according to police records, [but] only 160 of them were referred to court. They were all released on various grounds, and a handful of activists are all that is left behind,” prominent Turkish poet Metin Altıok’s daughter, Zeynep Altıok, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Metin Altıok struggled for weeks with severe burns before finally succumbing to his injuries, according to Zeynep Altıok who added she was 23 when she lost her father.
“[We] could carry the case all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights, but I am not so enthusiastic about complaining to Europe about my country. I [prefer] the case be resolved here,” she said. Zeynep Altıok also said she had never visited Sivas where the incident took place and would only go if a “Museum of Disgrace” were to be established there in place of the hotel burnt down. “The state [merely] watched as this eight-hour long massacre [unfolded]; firefighters did not intervene, and the police and the army failed to fulfill their duties,” she said.
New massacres could take place in Turkey at any moment, said Zeynep Altıok, noting the racist slogans shouted during the controversial Khojaly Massacre demonstration on Feb. 26 in Istanbul and the recent marking of Alevi homes in the eastern province of Adıyaman.