Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Şemdinli Case Postponed

From Gareth Jenkins:
On June 6 the military court in the southeastern city of Van once again postponed a scheduled hearing in a case brought against three members of the security forces who are accused of carrying out an extra-judicial execution in the Kurdish town of Semdinli in November 2005. The trial is widely regarded as a test case for Turkey’s willingness to hold members of its security forces accountable for human rights abuses in its 24-year-old war against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Two gendarmerie intelligence officers, Ali Kaya and Ozcan Ildeniz, and a former PKK member turned informer called Veysel Ates are accused of killing one man, Zahir Korkmaz, and injuring two others in a bomb explosion at the Umit Bookshop in Semdinli shortly after noon on November 9, 2005. The device is alleged to have been planted by Ates, who was apprehended by an angry mob of local people immediately after the explosion as he attempted to get into a waiting car occupied by Kaya and Ildeniz. The mob ransacked the car. Local TV showed them the brandishing weapons and documents they had found in the trunk of the car. These included identity cards indicating that Kaya and Ildeniz were gendarmerie intelligence officers, an apparent death list of alleged PKK sympathizers and diagrams of the home and workplace of the bookshop’s owner, whose name was also on the death list.

The Turkish authorities have traditionally either ignored allegations of extrajudicial killings by the security forces in southeast Turkey or attempted to attribute them to internal feuding in the PKK. But this time the evidence was overwhelming. The three men were tried and found guilty. On June 19, 2006, they were sentenced to 39 years in jail. However, on May 16, 2007, the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions on the grounds that, as the accused were military personnel, the case should have been heard by a military court. The three were released pending their retrial. None of them was present in court on June 6, when the panel of judges postponed hearing the case until September 19, on the grounds that they needed to conduct an onsite investigation at the scene of the crime. It was the third time the court had postponed the hearing.

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