Policeman convicted to 4 years in death of refugee

Policeman convicted to 4 years in death of refugee

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Policeman convicted to 4 years in death of refugee

This file photo from Feb. 9, 2011 shows a protes organized by Migration Solidarity Network (GDA), which has been following the case closely since its beginning.

Turkish court yesterday sentenced a police to 50 months imprisonment for “involuntary manslaughter” in the 2007 fatal shooting of Nigerian refugee Festus Okey.

Okey was detained in 2007 for not carrying identification and died from a wound that was caused by a police officer’s bullet. Okey’s case could not proceed until yesterday because the court could not certify his identity.

“I am here because I did what my duty requires,” police officer Cengiz Yıldız told the court.

Yıldız’s lawyer, Vehbi Kahveci, said the deficiencies in the police institution, particularly the lack of closets for storing guns, caused the incident; Yıldız kept his gun in his pocket and a sudden move between him and Okey might have caused the shooting, he added.

“We were expecting an acquittal,” Kahveci said.

Yıldız was sentenced to four years and two months imprisonment, although chief judge
İshak Eren opposed the court’s decision and demanded that Yıldız be fined. The court initially handed down a higher sentence before making a reduction.

Meanwhile, the court rejected the demands from Okey’s brother’s lawyers, Alptekin Ocak and Can Atalay, to intervene in the case on the grounds that the relationship between Totuchugvu Gameliah Ogvu and Okey was “unverified.”

“We wanted to get involved in the case to find all the responsible parties,” Ocak said, adding that if the court had accepted their investigation demands at the police station, they could have found more culpable people.

NGOs observe trial

In addition to journalists watching the trial, there were representatives from several nongovernmental organizations, such as the Migration Solidarity Network (GDA), Amnesty International and the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD).

“The suspect would be punished with almost 12 years imprisonment if the … lawyers could have proved that the case was voluntary manslaughter,” said Taylan Tanay, the ÇHD Istanbul branch head, adding that the T-shirt Okey was wearing at time of the incident was never recovered.

Meanwhile, Istanbul Bar Association’s Human Rights Center head Erdem İlker Mutlu said the social outcomes of the punishment would be heavier for the former police officer.

“Although the court reduced Yıldız’s imprisonment, he can’t work as a civil servant anymore,” Mutlu said, adding that civil servant employment rules prevented this.