New trial hope for Sivas massacre

New trial hope for Sivas massacre

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
New trial hope for Sivas massacre

Protestors carry photographs of Sivas victims during a rally in Denizli. DAILY NEWS photo

The European Court of Human Rights does not accept the statute of limitations in crimes such as the Sivas Massacre, a Turkish judge at the Strasbourg-based court said after an Ankara court invoked the statute March 13 in dropping the case.

The comments by judge Işıl Karakaş come as Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç signaled that a probe could be launched against then-state officials accused of negligence in the 1993 massacre.
The European court does not tend to invoke the statute of limitations in cases which involve the violation of the right to life, Karakaş said.

Noting that other cases in which police forces and security officers in Turkey have also previously been dropped due to the statute of limitations, Karakaş said her court was against such decisions.

Meanwhile, Arınç said civil servants who served during the massacre, including then-Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Sivas Mayor Ahmet Karabilgin, could be put on trial on charges of negligence.

“[Those killed in Sivas] were our dearest souls, they were our people. I wish all the perpetrators had been put on trial and fined but the court decided to drop the case due to the statute of limitations. According to the verdict the court dropped the case because the perpetrators were not public officials. Then I can say that the officials who had negligence in the incident can be put on trial,” Arınç said yesterday in Istanbul. 

Deputy Prime Minister Hüseyin Çelik also responded to criticisms that lawyers for the suspects in the massacre were now deputies for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), saying the “right of defense is sacred.”

“Is the lawyer who defends a murderer also a murderer himself? When this horrible incident took place, the AKP was not even conceived. For the first time in the Turkish Republic’s history, Alevism made an entry into the school books in my ministry’s term. A dark power is trying to sow discord among Alevis and Sunnis over this case,” Çelik said. 

Çelik also criticized the opposition parties and media, saying they had been misleading society.
“The image is as if everyone who was on trial was released; that is not the truth. Some 79 people were charged in the case while 40 were released at the beginning,” Çelik said. 

Çelik said Turkey would no longer experience problems with statutes of limitations after new legal amendments are implemented in two years.

 Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, a lawyer by profession, also expressed his sorrow yesterday over the March 13 decision, Doğan news agency reported. 

“It was a crime against humanity; after the court’s verdict to drop the case, public sensitivities were damaged. We do not want to see such cases dropped again due to the statute of limitations,” Günay said.

Some 33 intellectuals and two hotel workers died when radical Islamists attacked a hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas that was hosting an Alevi festival on July 2, 1993.