Prosecutor: Fatal shooting of Gezi protester was an act of self-defense

Prosecutor: Fatal shooting of Gezi protester was an act of self-defense

Mesut Hasan Benli ANKARA - Radikal
Prosecutor: Fatal shooting of Gezi protester was an act of self-defense

People hold up posters of Ethem Sarisülük. AP Photo

A police officer who allegedly shot a demonstrator during the early days of the Gezi Park protests was released on June 24 by a court in Ankara, with the prosecutor in charge of the investigation ruling that the shooting was “within the limits of self-defense.”

Sarısülük, a 26-year-old blue collar worker, was shot in the head during a protest near Güven Park in Kızılay on June 1. Having been on life support for days and later declared brain dead, he passed away on June 14, increasing the number of casualties in the protests to four.

The police officer who allegedly shot and killed Sarısülük, identified as Ahmet Ş., was released pending trial by the Ankara 13th Criminal Court on the condition of judicial control. Thus, from now on, he will be required to report to a police station once a week and is prohibited from traveling abroad.

On June 24, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation against Ahmet Ş., Veli Dalgalı, surprisingly summoned Ahmet Ş. for interrogation.

Dalgalı then sent the police officer to court demanding his arrest. However, the court, following another interrogation, released the suspect pending trial, arguing that he remained “within the limits of self-defense.”

During a meeting between Dalgalı and the lawyers of Sarısülük’s family, which was held before the interrogation of Ahmet Ş., Dalgalı told the lawyers that there was neither a development nor a new report concerning the investigation, sources said. The prosecutor also told the lawyers that he would be leaving the courthouse later in the afternoon. Nonetheless, the lawyers eventually heard by coincidence that the police officer had been summoned for interrogation and that he had been sent to the court.

“If the person who committed this crime was not a police officer, but was rather an ordinary citizen, he would have been under arrest by now. The police are being encouraged to commit crime. With this ruling, an assurance for the protection of police officers who commit crimes has appeared. The path to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights has been opened for us,” Kazım Bayraktar, a lawyer for the Sarısülük family, told reporters following the developments.

Family to apply to the ECHR

The ruling has been greeted by huge indignation by Sarısülük's family, according to their lawyer, Kazım Bayraktar, who said they would now take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

"We are seeing today that the police officer who shot Ethem Sarısülük in his head has been released, despite having clearly committed a murder. This ruling has shown us once again that the already [flawed] justice has entirely lost its legitimacy," Bayraktar said. 

He also slammed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's unwavering defense of the police's actions. "The prime minister's statement that, 'We will not surrender our police, we have told the judiciary what's necessary,' has found its reflection at court," he said.

The lawyer also argued that they would go to the ECHR before exhausting all appeal paths, on the grounds that the judiciary was under the influence of the executive in Turkey. "We were already preparing to appeal to the ECHR on the grounds that the prosecution was not efficient and the court was influenced by the executive. Following the ruling, we will apply to the ECHR within the shortest possible time," Bayraktar said.

He also criticized the fact that the judge in the case did not take into account the footage and the testimonies of the suspect. "The expert's report on the fact that [Sarısülük was shot] from 4.8 meters was also not in the court's justification," he said.

Sarısülük's death has prompted much anger, with protesters demanding that the government investigate and punish the police officers responsible for violence against protesters.