‘I thought demonstrators would kill us,’ says officer who shot dead mourner at cemevi

‘I thought demonstrators would kill us,’ says officer who shot dead mourner at cemevi

İsmail Saymaz ISTANBUL
‘I thought demonstrators would kill us,’ says officer who shot dead mourner at cemevi

Uğur Kurt was killed on May 22 while attending a funeral at a cemevi, an Alevi house of worship, when police opened fire on a group of demonstrators staging a protest in the Okmeydanı neighborhood of the city.

The police officer who shot dead Uğur Kurt during a funeral service at a cemevi in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood during clashes with demonstrators on May 22 said in his testimony that he opened fire to “neutralize an individual throwing Molotov cocktails” as he feared for his life.

The officer, identified as S.K., explained that he did not receive training for fire arms but only for gas canister rifles, adding that he did not have much experience in such interventions.

“I fired one shot on an individual who was throwing [Molotov cocktails] at us while we were trapped in a burning vehicle, aiming at his foot in order to neutralize him. I couldn’t hit him as he escaped to an alley in the opposite side from us. Then, because I saw there were other demonstrators in the surroundings who could continue the attack, I pointed my gun into the air and started firing,” the officer, identified only as S.K., told prosecutors in his testimony, which was obtained by Radikal.

A bullet fired from S.K.’s gun eventually struck Kurt, who was participating in the funeral of a relative at a nearby cemevi, an Alevi worship place, but was trapped there with many others as clashes between groups of demonstrators and police turned violent.

S.K. finished the police academy in 2009 and was only appointed to the anti-terror unit in January 2014. Prosecutors initially claimed the he fired his gun in self-defense, but his testimony was only taken on Aug. 21, three months after the accident. The investigation at the crime scene was also conducted after a significant delay, on Sept. 4, amid claims that the police are trying to whitewash the incident.

The officer S.K. also claimed that he had no knowledge that there was a cemevi nearby, adding that he had experienced “psychological trauma” following the incident. His lawyer has pressed for the incident to be considered as self-defense, and asked for his client to be tried without detention if a trial is launched.

Footage at the scene shows both the moment when Kurt was struck by the bullet and the officer firing his gun, but the distance and the angle between the two men was not recorded.

S.K. says he did not clearly remember if anyone opened fire before him, adding that he did not hear anyone calling on him not to fire, despite footage showing the opposite.