The Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court's verdict that sentenced a group of Molotov cocktail throwers prison terms ranging between seven and 15 years and decided to sentence them to life imprisonment over attempting to destroy the country's unity and territorial integrity and attempted murder on behalf of a terrorist organization.
According to a report in the Sabah daily on Tuesday, criminal charges were filed against a group of suspects accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at security units, public buildings, shops and ATM machines during an illegal demonstration held in May 2009 in Diyarbakır's Sur district to protest the prison conditions of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island.
Police arrested the suspects at their homes, where they found documents pertaining to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the terrorist PKK, and action plans ordered by senior PKK leader Murat Karayılan.
The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court concluded the case on April 14, 2011 and sentenced the suspects to prison sentences ranging between 7 and 15 years on charges of committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being a member of the organization, disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization, damaging property and illegal possession of explosives.
Lawyers for the suspects appealed the court's verdict, claiming the sentences should be reduced. The 9th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals considered the sentences insufficient and decided unanimously to sentence the suspects to life imprisonment on charges of attempting to destroy the country's unity and territorial integrity and attempted murder on behalf of a terrorist organization, claiming that the lower court was mistaken in its classification of the offense. The high court also said the terrorist organization the suspects acted on behalf of had attempted to destroy the country's unity and territorial integrity.
Many people have suffered serious injuries in attacks carried out with Molotov cocktails, which are usually thrown indiscriminately by pro-PKK demonstrators at vehicles, houses, stores and people.
In November 2011, Adana Police Chief Mehmet Avcı suggested amending laws on firearms to define Molotov cocktails as a type of bomb. Avcı argued that a Molotov cocktail is a “bomb” made of gasoline or other combustibles and as such should be considered a lethal weapon. He further stated that the deadliness of such “liquid bombs” should provide police with justification to use firearms to disperse demonstrators who use such weapons. The police chief deemed the use of Molotov cocktails an “act of terrorism.”
In a ruling that came on the heels of Avcı's suggestion, the Van 4th High Criminal Court in November 2011 handed down jail sentences of 12 years, six months to two suspects who were arrested for possessing Molotov cocktails on charges of providing weapons to the terrorist PKK, classifying Molotov cocktails as a type of weapon.
The court also recalled a 2009 incident in İstanbul's Küçükçekmece district in which 17-year-old Serap Eser succumbed to injuries sustained when a group of PKK supporters threw a Molotov cocktail into a municipal bus. “This incident shows that even a single Molotov cocktail can lead to serious consequences for people's lives and society,” the court said as it explained the grounds for its ruling.
In a similar case, an Adana chief public prosecutor argued for a 20-year sentence for a 15-year-old boy called Ş.B. for attempted murder. According to the prosecutor's indictment issued in December 2011, the boy threw a Molotov cocktail at police officers during an illegal protest in Adana province.