Sivas victims implore Germany to extradite 9 defendants

March 07, 2012, Wednesday/ 15:44:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

An Alevi association has appealed to the German Embassy in Ankara days before the next session in the Sivas Madımak massacre trial, where nine suspects are on trial for their alleged role in the 1993 attack on a hotel that was hosting Alevi artists and intellectuals visiting for a festival that killed 35 people, to provide legal assistance for the extradition of nine of the alleged attackers, who are currently in Germany.

The Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association wants Germany to extradite nine of the defendants in the case, who have been convicted in the trial that has been under way since 1994. The court hearing the trial is expected to drop the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations has expired in the next hearing, scheduled for March 13, 2012. German officials have denied earlier requests from Turkish officials to extradite the nine defendants.

Şenal Sarıhan, a lawyer with the Pir Sultan Abdal Association, said a delegation had recently met with officials at the Germany Embassy. “We told them that these people had committed a crime against humanity and inquired as to the reason for their refusing to extradite them. We told them Germany has also seen a lot of grief; we appealed to them for help. We are not interested in revenge. We told them all we want is to ensure that such incidents never happen again. They told us that people given an aggravated life sentence in Turkey have to remain in jail until the end of their lives. We told them that this is the case only for organized crime and that the Sivas massacre case does not fall under that legal category. They told us they were going to review our appeal.”

Under changes made to the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in 2005, a life sentence given to individuals charged with organized crime or crimes against the state might mean staying in jail until the end of the convict's life. Pir Sultan Abdal Association Deputy Chairman Mustafa Özarslan said Turkey's initial appeal for extradition had some shortcomings. “The demand for extradition has shortcomings. It makes it appear as if the crime the suspects are accused of committing is that they participated in a demonstration. There is no mention of their conviction for attempting to forcibly change the constitutional order. The ministry is at fault here.”

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said refusal on the part of some foreign countries to extradite wanted criminals on the grounds of the new scope of the aggravated life sentence terms in Turkey was common. He said the government had done its part fully in seeking extradition of the Sivas suspects.

In related developments, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies voted down a proposal by the Republican People's Party (CHP) that might have prevented the court from dropping the case due to the statute of limitations. CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu said the bill was seeking to remove the statute of limitations in cases of unsolved political assassinations, torture and abuse and sexual abuse of minors.

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