Activists seeking justice in lingering Festus case

Activists seeking justice in lingering Festus case

Activists seeking justice in lingering Festus case

Protesters carry a banner reading “The police who shot Festus should be brought to justice” while a spokesman makes a statement in this file photo from Feb. 9, 2011.

The supporters of the case of Nigerian refugee Festus Okey, a man who was allegedly killed at an Istanbul police station, are urging more people to become parties to the case, the hearing of which will be held next week.

Even though they are aware that party applications will not be accepted by the court, the activists aim to create awareness on refugee issues and torture through the applications. Lawyer and activist Burcu Özaydın told Hürriyet Daily News that 120 applications have been signed so far.

“Almost three years, following the request of the suspect’s lawyer, the court lost time to verify the identification of Festus Okey,” Özaydın said.

Instead of waiting for any evidence that will confirm the identification of the deceased, the court will announce its opinion on the issue at a hearing Nov. 17.

“Our fight is not only about a man who died in custody, but the wider discrimination against refugees,” Begüm Özden Fırat of the Migrants Support Network said during a briefing held Oct. 21.

Refugees are seen as the main cause of the economic crisis in Europe, and Turkish policy also reflects the EU’s state of mind, Özden said.

“The Festus Okey case became very popular, however, it could not help end police torture,” journalist İsmail Saymaz said during the briefing.

During former Istanbul’s Beyoğlu Police Force Manager Tuğrul Pek’s term, many similar incidents occurred, Saymaz said. From the very beginning of the Nigerian refugee’s case, police have been trying to hide the evidence of murder, and the corpse was hidden for one month, according to Saymaz.

Saymaz said the shirt Okey was wearing that day was intentionally lost by the hospital to hide the evidence that would show at which distance the gun of Police Officer Cengiz Yıldız, who is being accused of killing the Nigerian refugee, was shot. Yıldız claimed his gun accidentally fired when Okey grabbed it.

“Okey was taken to another room intentionally, not the testimony room. That allowed them to not track evidence, and there is no footage of the incident since their cameras were broken at the time of his death,” Saymaz added.

Lawyer Muhsin Kemal Şimşek said that despite their efforts to contact Okey’s family to make them a party to the case, the family told them they suffered enough and preferred to stay out of it.

“Sensibility and civil disobedience have increased regarding human rights issues even though we are not hopeful on this case,” Şimşek said.

To change the fate of the case, the speakers asked media to focus on the issue and said people should show the court that they are not just witnesses anymore.

The court previously decided to file a criminal complaint of “insulting the court” against more than 70 people who filed individual requests to become a party to the case.

Okey was taken into custody Aug. 20, 2007, in Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district on charges of drug possession.