The family of a young man of Armenian descent shot dead by another private while serving in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have said they believe that he was intentionally killed, after new evidence changed the course of the trial.
Pvt. Sevag Şahin Balıkçı was killed on April 24, 2011, the date the Armenian diaspora has chosen to commemorate the incidents of 1915, when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. Officers and other privates in his unit, which is stationed in Batman province, testified that Balıkçı was shot accidentally while “joking around” with a close friend, Kıvanç Ağaoğlu, who allegedly fired the lethal shot. They were serving at the Kozluk Gümüşgörü Gendarmerie Station at the time of the alleged murder.
However, since Halil Ekşi, a private who witnessed the incident, changed his testimony, the Balıkçı family’s lawyer has petitioned the court to hold the hearing of the trial earlier than the scheduled date of March 29.
During a hearing at Diyarbakır Second Air Force Commandership Military Court on Jan. 30, Ekşi, who served in the military at the same time as Balıkçı, revised his testimony: “Kıvanç pointed his rifle at Sevag and pulled the trigger. His family had asked me to testify in his favor,” indicating that Ağaoğlu’s family pressured him into giving false testimony.
Despite demands following the testimony by Cem Halavurt, the Balıkçı family’s lawyer, the court has decided not to arrest Ağaoğlu.
“One of the judges demanded that Ağaoğlu be arrested, but others refused on the basis that Ekşi was put under pressure by Ağaoğlu’s family, not by Kıvanç Ağaoğlu,” Halavurt said.
“We are still collecting evidence on how Ekşi was threatened. We have requested his phone records. We are trying to clearly discover if there was intent to murder or not. We might again petition for the defendant’s arrest. The trial is ongoing,” Halavurt said, adding that they are pleased the military court has considered their demands.
Ani Balıkçı, mother of Sevag Balıkçı who was present at the court hearing on Monday, said that Ekşi indicated in court that the defendant had aimed his rifle at Sevag.
“The judge had a rifle brought to the court for Ekşi to demonstrate the details of the incident. He showed that the defendant intentionally killed Sevag,” she said. “We are trying to learn why.”
In the initial stages of the probe investigators were trying to understand whether Balıkçı was the victim of a hapless accident or an intentional murder. Based on suspicions arising from the date of the murder, the family had earlier filed criminal charges against Ağaoğlu, claiming he had wanted to kill their son and knew what he was doing when he fired his rifle. Ağaoğlu’s lawyers asserted that their client was a very close friend of Balıkçı and fired the rifle by accident. Earlier testimony from Ekşi supported this statement. However, Ekşi, who attended court once again on Dec. 27, 2011, said he wanted to change his initial testimony.
He said he did not see the suspect playing around with the rifle and noted that Ağaoğlu’s uncle, Bülent Kaya, had visited him in his hometown and assisted him in writing his initial testimony. He gave his first testimony to an Aydın court on Sept. 9, 2011.
In his latest account, Ekşi told the judge: “I was told by Kıvanç and his family, especially his uncle, to testify in his favor. On the day of the incident we were installing chain-link fencing around the station, under orders from our commanders. As we did our work, at some point Ağaoğlu unlocked his rifle’s safety catch and aimed at our other friend, Şahin. Then he fired the rifle, wounding Şahin. I do not know why Kıvanç fired at Sevag.” The next hearing of the trial will be on Feb. 13.