Turkish court decides to continue detainment for imprisoned suspect of 21 years

Turkish court decides to continue detainment for imprisoned suspect of 21 years

Hakkı Özdal – ISTANBUL
Turkish court decides to continue detainment for imprisoned suspect of 21 years An Istanbul court has ruled for the continuation of a 21-year-long detainment of a 42-year-old man, who has been standing trial for an anti-terror case since 1994. 

Istanbul’s 4th Court of Series Crimes ruled in the July 3 hearing of the case concerning the retrial of İlhan Sami Çomak, who allegedly engaged in acts of terror, that his detainment should continue. The court ruled that because the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) previous decision for his retrial was given for an earlier ruling of a different court, namely the State Security Court (DGM), and because the case’s evidence had not changed since the last hearing, his detainment would be upheld.

Additionally, the court decided that there was no need for Çomak to come to the hearings and that he would join the court at the next hearing via SEGBİS, a video testifying system. 

Çomak was detained in 1994 at the age of 21, while he was a student at the geography department of Istanbul University by anti-terror police. Under heavy torture, Çomak was forced to sign police summaries of his alleged crimes. After 16 days of detainment, Çomak told the judge during his first court hearing he had signed these documents while undergoing torture. He was arrested by police for allegedly engaging in acts of “separatism” and “setting a forest on fire in the name of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK],” regarded as a terror organization by Turkey and against which army forces were engaged in a deadly struggle with at the time. 

First verdict in 2000

Çomak’s first verdict was handed down by the Istanbul DGM in 2000, which ruled for Çomak’s execution on the grounds that he had committed acts with the aim of “separating a part of a country from the country’s administration.” The same court turned the verdict into a life sentence for his “good behavior” at court. He was also acquitted of the forest arson charges. 

DGMs were introduced to the Turkish legal system in 1973, after the March 12, 1971 coup, also known as the “coup by memorandum.” Established to look into “crimes related with the state’s domestic and foreign security,” the DGMs were abolished with a constitutional change in 2004.

The same year, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the DGM’s decision. Çomak then applied to the ECHR in 2001, claiming his right to a fair trial had been violated due to the military judge at the DGM. In 2006, the ECHR acknowledged Çomak’s application, ruled for his retrial and also punished Turkey through compensation. 

Retrial starts 7 years after ECHR rule 

Though the ECHR ruled for the retrial in 2006, it was not until 2013 that an Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes decided for his retrial. He was brought before the court for three different hearings on May 11, 2014, Sept. 5, 2014 and July 2, 2015, during which the court rejected Çomak’s plea to be released pending trial. 

Though there has been no final judgment on the case, and its evidences, which Çomak is alleged to be able to obfuscate if released, are from 1993, Çomak has continued to stay under arrest and in prison for the past 21 years. 

Nazım Çomak, the suspect’s brother, said his family wanted to look ahead with hope.

“We are victims of the jurisdiction but we want to look ahead with hope. We paid a great price as a society. Let these bleeding sores heal,” he said, before the latest trial.