Judges withdraw from Gezi murder trial

Judges withdraw from Gezi murder trial

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Judges withdraw from Gezi murder trial

The Chief Judge of Ankara Sixth High Criminal Court, Afak İlleez, said they recused themselves from the Sarısülük case because doubts had been cast over there being a fair trial at the court. DHA Photo

Judges in the ongoing trial of a police officer who shot dead Gezi protester Ethem Sarısülük unexpectedly withdrew from the case and referred it to another court Dec. 2, after lawyers for the Sarısülük family voiced their doubts over the impartiality of the court board.

The Chief Judge of Ankara Sixth High Criminal Court, Afak İlleez, said they recused themselves from the case because doubts had been cast over there being a fair trial at the court, after the Sarısülük family’s lawyers raised their concerns.

The Ankara Seventh High Criminal Court, as the superior court, will soon decide whether or not the recusal is appropriate, according to the Law of Criminal Procedures (CMK). If the superior court approves the recusal, another court will continue the trial. If the recusal is rejected, the Ankara Sixth High Criminal Court will have to continue hearing the case.

The Dec. 2 hearing was the third hearing in the trial of police officer Ahmet Şahbaz, who shot dead 26-year-old Sarısülük in Ankara’s Güvenpark on June 1 during Gezi Park protests.

Şahbaz is accused of “killing a person by unintentionally exceeding the limits of self-defense, due to excusable circumstances.”

The office, who was appointed to the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa after the incident, gave his testimony via an audio-visual conference system. Despite objections from Sarısülük’s lawyers, the court previously ruled that Şahbaz did not have to appear at the courthouse, as he is currently on duty at the Şanlıurfa Police Department’s protection branch. The audio-visual conference system is normally used for those who are not healthy enough to come to the courthouse.

In his defense, Şahbaz said he was on duty to ensure security around Ankara’s Güvenpark on June 1, during the Gezi Park demonstrations.

“When demonstrators came close and attacked us, our chiefs ordered us to withdraw. While we were attempting to withdraw, a demonstrator hit me and I fell down. At that moment, I thought they were going to kill me,” Şahbaz said. “Then I stood up, advanced upon a demonstrator and kicked him. If I hadn’t kicked him, they would have lynched me. When they did not stop throwing stones, I pulled my gun and fired into the air. Those were warning shots, I did not target anybody. Even while I was shooting, demonstrators continued throwing stones. I’m sorry that Ethem Sarısülük lost his life. But I am not at fault for his death. Those who caused the death of Ethem Sarısülük were those who threw stones at me.”

The police officer said he was not aware that he had shot Sarısülük at that moment, and added that he had to be taken to hospital as he was injured from the stones thrown at him by demonstrators. He first heard about Sarısülük’s death two days after the incident, he said.

Meanwhile, Murat Yılmaz, a lawyer for the Sarısülük family, said Şahbaz was “not telling the truth” when he said he did not know he had shot Ethem.

An official report written by the Ankara police department on June 2, the day after the incident, stated that Sarısülük was shot by Şahbaz, who also signed the report himself. When Sarısülük’s lawyers questioned Şahbaz about the contradictions in his testimony, he repeatedly said “I don’t remember” and “I want to use my right to remain silent.”

Meanwhile, the prosecutor and one of the judges were seen sleeping in the courtroom while Kazım Bayraktar, another lawyer for the Sarısülük family, was speaking.

Outside, hundreds of demonstrators had gathered in front of the courthouse in support of the Sarısülük family, and the police took extreme security measures. However, unlike in the previous hearing, no incidents occurred between the police and demonstrators.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers İlhan Cihaner, Hüseyin Aygün and Mahmut Tanal, as well as the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Ertuğrul Kürkçü were present to follow the hearing.