Police intentionally targeted Berkin Elvan, father says

Police intentionally targeted Berkin Elvan, father says

Ayşegül USTA / Fırat ALKAÇ ISTANBUL / Hürriyet
Police intentionally targeted Berkin Elvan, father says

Children paint a portrait of Berkin Elvan on the pavement during a demonstration in Ankara. Berkin Elvan was fatally hit by a tear gas canister as he went to buy bread during a police crackdown on June 15, 2013. AFP Photo

The father of 15-year-old Gezi victim Berkin Elvan, who died due to injuries from a tear-gas canister after 269 days in a coma, has accused police officers of intentionally killing his son.

Sami Elvan explained during testimony to an Istanbul public prosecutor that officers called them for an interrogation at the police department 10 days before Berkin Elvan was fatally hit by a tear gas canister as he went to buy bread during a police crackdown on June 15, 2013.

During the trip to the station, Sami Elvan said a few plainclothes officers sat down and talked with Berkin in his presence. “We were left alone with what we assumed were police officers: four men and a woman. Two of those people started to ask Berkin questions. They mentioned Grup Yorum,” he said in reference to the popular leftist band known for its revolutionary stance and for its members who are often the target of police raids in connection with the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).

“They told him that although they liked Grup Yorum, the band was opposed to the state, adding they did not approve of Berkin going to see Grup Yorum and participating in demonstrations. They gave him ‘advice,’ telling him to stay away from such things [while telling him], ‘Your father is a working man,’” the father said.

As with nearly all of the Gezi victims, Berkin Elvan was an Alevi and his family lived in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood, an area where a number of leftist groups, including the DHKP/C, receive strong support.

Sami Elvan told the prosecutor that the incident led him to believe that his son was known and closely followed by police, adding that during the conversation, the police officers gave the boy examples that could be perceived as threats.

“I believe my son was killed intentionally because from the examples they gave to Berkin, they said there were people who were condemned to wheelchairs and became disabled. They said things to him like he could become one of those people. That’s what makes me think Berkin was hit intentionally,” Elvan said.

“They said when they go to jail, many become disabled and others have paid for it with their lives. They told him he could be one of them, and warned him to remain with his family. They even showed him leftist publications, such as the ‘Yürüyüş’ [March] magazine and told him that they were wrong,” he said.

During his testimony, Sami Elvan gave the description of the officers who talked with Berkin.

The boy, who turned 15 while in a coma, died after 269 days on March 11, sparking renewed nationwide protests against police brutality and producing one of the biggest funerals in the country’s history.

The Elvan family has also filed complaints against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and top government officials for describing their son as a “terrorist.”

Erdoğan incited his ruling Justice and development Party (AKP) supporters to boo Elvan during an electoral rally after the 15-year-old’s death.

For her part, mother Gülsüm Elvan repeated that her son went out to buy bread and not to join the protesters on the day he was attacked. “The prime minister has previously said he was the one who gave the orders to the police and congratulated their heroic action. That’s why we filed a complaint about him,” she said.

In comments after his death, she also said, “It’s not God who took my son away, but Prime Minister Erdoğan.”