Turkish court sentences policemen to 10 years in prison for killing of Ali İsmail Korkmaz

Turkish court sentences policemen to 10 years in prison for killing of Ali İsmail Korkmaz

Turkish court sentences policemen to 10 years in prison for killing of Ali İsmail Korkmaz

Police fire tear gas on those following the trial outside the courtroom. DHA Photo

A Turkish court has sentenced two police officers to 10 years in prison for the killing of 19-year-old Gezi protester Ali İsmail Korkmaz, drawing fury from the victim's family and lawyers, who were expecting much stiffer sentences.

Mevlüt Saldoğan was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in jail for "causing the death" of Korkmaz, who was beaten to death by a group of officers and civilians in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir during the 2013 Gezi protests. The court also ordered the arrest of another officer, Yalçın Akbulut, after sentencing him to 10 years in prison, with two years knocked off his sentence due to good behavior.

Saldoğan had been facing life in prison for premeditated murder.

Civilians İsmail Koyuncu, Ramazan Koyuncu and Muhammet Vatansever were all sentenced to six years and eight months on charges of assault. Another suspect, Ebubekir Harlar, was released on the basis of various reductions, although he was still sentenced to three years and four months in jail.

Two other police officers, Şaban Gökpınar and Hüseyin Engin, were acquitted.

Saldoğan could be given probation as early as March 2019 on the basis that he has already been under arrest for 18 months, his lawyer, Mutlu Karayılan, told daily Hürriyet.

Likewise, Akbulut could be released in six years and two months, Istanbul Bar lawyer Necip Şenel said.

'President Erdoğan responsible for decision'

The decision was greeted by incredulity by the gallery, with many shouting, "The fury of the mothers will drown the murderers."

"Damn people like this and damn this justice," Korkmaz's mother, Emel Korkmaz, shouted as she was leaving the courtroom.

"Ali's life should not have been this cheap," she said after the sentence was passed. "Is this was justice is? The whole world saw how you murdered him." 

"You are not the people's police, but the police of murderers," said Ali Ayvalıtaş, the father of another Gezi victim, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş.

Police waiting outside the courtroom attacked those following the trial with tear gas, as protesters shouted, "The murderous state will pay." "Police are even taking revenge for this [low] sentence," Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy leader Sezgin Tanrıkulu said in response to the police barrage.

At least one person was also injured in the head by the police intervention, with CHP deputy Melda Onur also noting that police had been detaining protesters.

Emel Korkmaz was also taken to a "safe" place after fainting in the midst of the police attack.

Officers inside also demanded that those in the gallery exit the courtroom, prompting anger on the part of the victim's brother, Gürkan Korkmaz, who has also been representing the family as a lawyer in the case. "We waited a year for justice -- you wait a bit, too. We trusted in your justice with patience."

"This is not a just decision," said one of the victim's lawyers, Ayhan Erdoğan. "It's a decision that was made under pressure from [President Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan."

The lawyer also said they would take case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. "The tradesmen and the murderous police have been protected and rewarded by the court."

"Justice has sentenced itself," said Istanbul Bar Association head Ümit Kocasakal. "Justice has been a dealt large wound. Society's conscience has been wounded. With this decision, [the court] has accepted that there was no intentional murder. If four or five people beat one person with wooden beams, that's called intentional murder."

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) also emphasized that the president was responsible for the decision. "Today the person that prepared the defense of those on trial was Tayyip Erdoğan himself. Today, one more murder was committed with the hand of the judiciary," said Deputy Co-Chair Meral Danış Beştaş.

"There is no law or justice in this country," Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) General-Secretary Arzu Çerkezoğlu told private broadcaster İMC TV amid a cloud of tear gas, declaring the decision to be entirely political.

"People in this country are worthless. People's lives really are very cheap. This trial will not end here," said Sami Elvan, the father of Gezi victim Berkin Elvan, who also attended the hearing in support of the Korkmaz family.

'The person we attacked wasn't Korkmaz'

Speaking in his defense via a video link from a prison in Ankara, Saldoğan denied that he had murdered Korkmaz but admitted to attacking other protesters.

"The person I hit was not Ali İsmail Korkmaz. A [key] witness [on the social blogging site] Ekşi Sözlük insulted my state and the police force. The person's status as a witness is invalid," he said.

In a hearing last year, Saldoğan also denied that the person he hit was Korkmaz, while adding that he had only "lightly poked" a prostrate protester with his foot.

"The real murderers are not in this hall. They're not from my police force. If they want to find the real murderer, then it is the one who sent the people onto the street," Saldoğan said during the Jan. 21 hearing.

He also reiterated his comments from previous hearings in which he said he "did what was necessary" because the Gezi protests were "an attempted coup," adding that the protesters were targeting public property and lives.

Gürkan Korkmaz said the case "belonged to everyone demanding freedom and enlightenment."

"I hope we will receive the decision we deserve in this, our righteous case. We are expecting a decision that will satisfy society's sense of justice," he said.

Korkmaz was beaten with sticks by plainclothes men outside a bakery during the Gezi protests in Eskişehir on June 2, 2013. He died on July 10 after spending 38 days in a coma.

Protests around Turkey

A number of protests were staged around the country in response to the verdict, with police attacking citizens in Ankara and Kadıköy in Istanbul.

During the demonstration in Kadıköy, Murat Bay, a photographer for the web portal sendika.org, was allegedly beaten by plainclothes police officers in Moda's Mehmet Ayvalıtaş Square while filming abuse toward a protester. Police reportedly attempted to seize Bay's press card and camera.