A Fact in Turkey: Unavailability of Justice in Courtrooms

The court’s ruling was announced last week in the lawsuit of October 10, Turkey’s bloodiest massacre at the 10th collective proceedings. Despite such comments as “The defendants were dished out penalties” the court ruling satisfied neither the victims’ families nor their lawyers, who observed that “liability of the state has been covered up” and “a rather hasty decision has been reached”.

Çınar Livane Özer

The Fourth High Criminal Court in Ankara announced its ruling on the October 10 Massacre. Though the defendants were sentenced to hundreds of years of imprisonment, the lawyers said “This is not legal heroism but a legal obligation. The liability of the state has been covered up.”

The 10th collective proceedings in the hearing room inside the Sincan Prison Campus, which was constructed for the FETO defendants, did not come to a close on July 2 as expected. The court ruling was postponed to July 3 and the victims’ families once again had to go to the prison campus in one of the farthest parts of Ankara with the hope of finding “justice”.

The Court sentenced defendants Abdulmubtalip Demir, Talha Güneş, Metin Akaltın, Yakup Şahin, Hakan Şahin, İbrahim Halil Alçay, Resul Demir, Hüseyin Tunç, Hacı Ali Durmaz one instance of aggravated life imprisonment on charges of “violation of the constitutional order,” and 100 instances of aggravated life imprisonment on charges of intentional manslaughter (a total of 101 instances of aggravated life imprisonment). Considering the number of the wounded in the attack, nine defendants were additionally sentenced to 10,557 years of imprisonment each for the charges of attempted murder. The Court handed down other defendants various terms of imprisonment on charges of “membership in an organization” and the file of the fugitive defendants were separated from the existing one. In other words, trial of the fugitive defendants will continue.

DEMANDS FOR “JUSTICE” HAVE NOT BEEN MET

After the ruling was announced the defendants insulted the court board and the victims’ families. The defendants were taken out of the courtroom and sent to prison. In the meantime, Şafak Yurtman, mother of Şebnem Yurtman, who had lost her life in the attack, fainted. The mother Yurtman, was taken to hospital.

After the decision families and lawyers came together. Mehtap Sakinci Coşgun, the head of the previously closed down October 10 Peace and Solidarity Association, said, “Our hopes have been snatched away”, commenting on the decision. He added, “We will continue to demand for justice.”

This showed the fact that the families’ demand for “justice” has not been met despite sentences of hundreds of years of imprisonment. Because the sentences handed down did not correspond with the objections the families and lawyers raised throughout the 53 hearings including the investigation process until the summary judgment.

LIABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS?

The lawyers have stated that not only the defendants but also public officials were responsible for the massacre, based on the evidence from various documents especially from Ministry of Interior’s Civil Inspector Report. However, this demand was not met in any stage of the lawsuit. The lawyers are of the conviction that “the liability of the state has been covered up” in the courtroom. Stating that the court’s decision “is not legal heroism but legal obligation; it is a point that establishes only the magnitude of the massacre”, the Lawyers Commission for the October 10 Massacre Case made the following comments:

“The liability of the public officials in the massacre probably has never manifested itself so clearly as in this case. And the reason why the case file has been concluded in great haste is the fact that the liability of public officials came to light in each document. Despite all this, an attitude grounded on the principle of non-liability of public officials rather than justice has been adopted, as if saying ‘We will not let you touch the State, here, you may contend yourself with some of the ISIS members!’”

“AN IMPERFECT DECISION”

Commenting on the verdict for the halagazeteciyiz.net, lawyer İlke Işık said that the decision has been an extremely imperfect one. “The wholesale decision for the defendants is deficient when the defendants’ positions and the evidence gathered are considered” stated Işık: “The defendants who were penalized only on charges of membership to organization, were not judged on charges of being organization leaders and participants in the massacre. Therefore, the record-high sentences handed down to the defendants are not essentially just. The total responsibilities that came in view within the context of the case file cannot be evaluated without considering the state officials’ responsibilities.”

The October 10 lawsuit, which continued over two years, will continue for the 35 fugitive defendants in the case. In February 2017 the court had reached an interlocutory decision to issue a red notice for the fugitive defendants.

“16 ISIS MEMBERS ARE AT LARGE”

Protesting the ruling in a press release, the Lawyers Commission for October 10 Case drew attention to the fact that 16 ISIS members are still carrying out activities. The Lawyers Commission made the following important observations:

“The massacre-linked ISIS members who are at large or whose names are unknown have not yet been identified: 16 of the defendants who planned the massacre are still at large, continuing with their ISIS activities in different places in the country at the moment. In addition, there are tens of people who were involved in the planning of the massacre; their clear video footages and photographs are in the case file yet their names have not yet been identified. The court board ignored all our demands for the identification and apprehension of these people, so to speak rewarding these defendants. As has been covered in the press, some of the fugitive defendants still come into sight in the country; they are deliberately not seized. The Court has become a part of the chain of responsibility that gave rise to this with its ruling.

-Except the existing defendants the people who are involved with the massacre have not been included in the case file:

Not only the public officials but also some of the perpetrators of the crime have been deliberately excluded from the case file. Perpetrators who were clearly connected to the massacre were surreptitiously judged in different case files and their cases were likewise closed. The Court never allowed the trial of these people who had been identified right from the beginning; on the contrary, it turned a blind eye to these emergent facts, avoiding even hearing these people in the courtroom.”

“THIS RULING IS NOT AN END FOR THIS CASE”

The Lawyers Commission, drawing attention to the fact that the case will continue for the fugitive defendants, said they will closely watch, and made the following remarks:

“The decision reached on August is not an end for this case. The big struggle for justice we have initiated disclosed the real suspects and enlightened the whole public about the case. The case will continue for the fugitive defendants and we would like to state that we will keep an eye on this case with the same persistence and eagerness. We will continue to take all the legal steps so as to ensure that each public official involved in the massacre intentionally or by means of negligence will stand trial. We will do our best to bring real perpetrators before the law and have them punished lest people driving white Toros automobiles, or wearing white beanies and white shoes can kill people once again.”