Eight suspects acquitted over 21 unsolved murders in Turkey’s southeast

Eight suspects acquitted over 21 unsolved murders in Turkey’s southeast

ESKİŞEHİR - Doğan News Agency
Eight suspects acquitted over 21 unsolved murders in Turkey’s southeast

The acquittal sparked outrage among the 21 victims' families and their lawyers. DHA Photo

A  Turkish court has acquitted eight defendants of all charges related to 21 unsolved murders in the Cizre district of the southeastern province of Şırnak between 1993 and 1995, sparking outrage among the victims’ families and their lawyers.

The cases, popularly known as the “JİTEM cases,” involved the trial of retired Col. Cemal Temizöz, former Cizre Mayor Kamil Atak, and the former Şırnak gendarmerie head.

JİTEM is an intelligence unit of the gendarmerie, never officially recognized by the military. The alleged clandestine organization is accused of being behind dozens of unsolved murders, predominantly in the 1990s.

‘No evidence viable for credible, conscientious ruling’

The trials had recently resumed in the northwestern province of Edirne, with the attendance of the families of the victims and a number of Kurdish translators demanding that the court punish the defendants.

Prosecutor Hakan Ali Erkan demanded the acquittal of the eight defendants, saying “no evidence was viable for a certain, credible and conscientious ruling.”

The court acquitted all defendants on Nov. 5.

‘A dark day for Turkish democracy’

Families and lawyers slammed the ruling after its announcement. 

“This is a dark day for Turkish democracy and Turkey’s efforts to confront its dark history,” said Diyarbakır Bar Vice Chair Ahmet Özmen, describing the case as the “most comprehensive cold case” of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict since the 1980s.

“Unfortunately, the trials were formulaic and reluctant. The shield of impunity as a state policy continues to protect public officials murdering people, committing serious crimes, and extorting,” Özmen added, citing cold cases across Turkey from the western province of Kocaeli to the southeastern province of Van.

A lawyer in the Şırnak Bar Association, Veysel Vesek, said that despite the ruling the defendants were “already sentenced by the victims and Turkish public opinion.” 

There are many victims’ relatives who are still unable to find the bodies of their loved ones, said Vesek, adding that the controversial ruling had “made history.”