Police brutality against İstanbul driver leads to outrage

Police brutality against İstanbul driver leads to outrage

(Photo: Cihan)

June 20, 2012, Wednesday/ 17:37:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Video footage showing a group of police officers relentlessly beating a man, identified as Ahmet Koca, in front of his family in İstanbul's Fatih district was posted online on Wednesday, causing nationwide outrage.

The incident, which was captured on a mobile camera by someone inside a nearby building, took place at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday as Koca was driving a pregnant relative to the hospital. The video shows Koca being kicked by at least seven police officers as he lies on the ground. All the officers worked for the police department's Preventive Services Unit and have been suspended pending an investigation.

Koca's relatives are heard begging the officers to stop on the recording. Initial reports said the officers were angered when Koca, who was driving, refused to let them cut in front of him as the police vehicle was switching lanes.

Koca, who is currently performing his compulsory military service and is stationed in Samsun, was in İstanbul for a few days to attend a wedding, it was later reported. Subsequent news reports stated that he was pulled over by a patrol car and refused to show an identification document.

The seven officers then began brutally hitting Koca. The footage from the mobile phone shows the officers beating Koca as a number of other officers arrive on the scene. At least three patrol vehicles are visible in the video.

The officers, seemingly completely oblivious to the screams of the man's relatives, push Koca to the ground and continue hitting and kicking him. Later, they lift him up, drag him to the shoulder of the road, which is still visible on the video, and continue to beat him before dragging him into a police vehicle, where he later received another beating.

Some of the officers are even seen taking off their belts and using them to beat Koca, while others use their batons. The person recording the video is heard saying, “They killed him, they smashed his face, they beat the man to death” to a second person, who is asking questions. “Look they are still beating him,” the person says as police drag Koca to the side of the street. The same person who recorded the footage is believed to have uploaded the video.

In remarks that appeared in several newspapers on Thursday, Koca said he was in a rush to take his pregnant relative to the hospital and that he told police this, but they refused to believe him.  He later said he called his brother to inform him about the situation and that when police noticed he was speaking in Kurdish, they asked him whether he was a terrorist and began attacking him.

“Although I told them I am a soldier, they made fun of me. They later handcuffed me and took me to the police car. They did not take me to a police station but a deserted area in Yenikapı and beat me in the car. After a while, they left me at Haseki Hospital,” Koca said.

He added that he received injuries not only to his neck and arms but his legs as well. Koca said the police who beat him should not simply be suspended, but barred from the profession altogether.

A couple of hours after the video was posted online on Wednesday, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu made a statement, noting that the officers in the video had been identified and suspended. “If there is anybody at fault, we will do what is necessary,” the governor said.

He added that an investigation has been launched, saying, “We will work together with the police department and speedily evaluate the situation.” He also stated that he hadn't seen the footage himself.

“We have been informed about the incident through the Internet, but the footage hasn't reached us yet,” the governor said. The video was available on every major news site before midday on Wednesday.

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