Court decision triggers tensions at trial of slain Gezi protester’s murder in Ankara

Court decision triggers tensions at trial of slain Gezi protester’s murder in Ankara

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Court decision triggers tensions at trial of slain Gezi protester’s murder in Ankara

DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin Sönmez

Tensions rose inside and outside an Ankara courthouse Oct. 28 during the postponed first hearing of a case into the killing of Gezi demonstrator Ethem Sarısülük by a local police officer at the beginning of June.

The court ruled that police officer A.Ş., who shot the 26-year-old Sarısülük to death in Ankara’s Güvenpark on June 2, could give his testimony via an audio-visual conference system on the grounds that he had been appointed to the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. The court also refused Sarısülük family lawyers’ demands that A.Ş. be arrested, reasoning that he was not a flight risk and would not be able to tamper with evidence.

Kazım Bayraktar, the family’s lawyer, criticized the court ruling and claimed that the officer should be tried for “intentional homicide,” recalling three separate reports indicated that A.Ş. did not use self-defense.

“[A.Ş.] has already fled; we all know that you cannot bring him here anymore. In a country where the prime minister says that the ‘police wrote a saga of heroism during the Gezi protests,’ we all know that there will be no fair trial when the suspect is a police officer,” Bayraktar said.

The next hearing was postponed until Dec. 2.

The officer is accused of “killing a person by unintentionally exceeding the limits of self-defense due to excusable circumstances.” The first hearing of the case was to be held Sept. 23 but it was postponed before it even began due to brawls between parties.

Police used sniffer dogs to conduct bomb checks at the courtroom before the hearing.

As A.Ş. did not attend the hearing, his lawyers demanded that his defense should be taken via an online teleconference system since he was on duty at Şanlıurfa Police Department’s protection branch.

Lawyers for the Sarısülük family objected to the defense lawyers’ demands, stressing such a system was only used for those who are not healthy enough to come to the courthouse.

Recently, in a case trying Sept. 12, 1980, coup leaders Kenan Evren, 96, and Tahsin Şahinkaya, 88, the suspects gave their testimony by teleconference.

The family’s lawyers demanded that the court issue an arrest warrant for A.Ş. since he did not show any justifiable reason for his absence.

When the chief judge asked prosecutor’s opinion about the lawyers’ demands, the prosecutor, who often put his head onto the table during the hearing, seemingly sleepily, asked, “Is there a demand?” Afterwards, he said there was no legal obstacle preventing A.Ş. from giving his testimony online.

Sarısülük’s family as well as spectators at the courtroom protested the court ruling with applause when the chief judge announced the decision. Some family members shouted “We want justice,” and “Shame on you,” after the announcement of the ruling. The victim’s brothers advanced on A.Ş.’s lawyers after the chief judge closed the hearing, but gendarmerie forces blocked them, while lawyers for the family also tried to calm them down.

Some spectators also chanted the slogans, “We are all Ethem, you will not finish us off by killing us” and “Comrade Ethem is our honor.”

İkrar Sarısülük, one of the victim’s brothers, shouted at the judges and asked “What kind of justice is this, what do you want to do?” Chief Judge Afak İlleez responded: “We want to penalize the murderer of your brother.”

Hundreds of demonstrators wearing Sarısülük’s masks gathered in front of the courthouse carrying banners reading “Ethem Sarısülük is immortal,” but tensions erupted outside the courthouse when the ruling was heard outside. The police used a substantial amount of water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd when some protestors began demonstrating.

Police dispersed another group of protestors with tear spray and water cannon when they attempted to block traffic on Atatürk Boulevard in front of the courthouse.

Some protestors who were injured in the police attack were taken to hospital by ambulance, as police chased protestors who escaped toward Kızılay Square, taking 18 of them into custody.

The tear gas was so intense that it even affected staff and visitors inside the courthouse building. Sarısülük’s mother, Seyfi Sarısülük, was also reportedly taken to hospital amid the tear gas, while several others were also hospitalized due to police violence.

Ankara police also reportedly demanded reinforcements from the Ankara Gendarmerie Command.

Several lawmakers, including Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies İlhan Cihaner, Hüseyin Aygün and Veli Ağbaba, as well as Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Sebahat Tuncel, were also at the courtroom to observe the hearing.