Victims of a 1993 hotel fire in the central province of Sivas, allegedly set by an angry mob including religious fundamentalists, lost their lives due to gunshot wounds rather than fire, the Yeni Akit daily reported on Monday. The daily carried photographs of the victims' bodies taken at the morgue on the day of the incident.
On July 2, 1993, 33 people attending a conference about Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal died at the Madımak Hotel in Sivas after being caught in a building set alight by an angry mob protesting the attendance of writer Aziz Nesin, a self-proclaimed atheist, at the festival. Thirty-three artists and intellectuals, along with two hotel workers and two members of the protesting mob, lost their lives in the incident, which is popularly known as the “Sivas Massacre.”
The Yeni Akit daily also published photographs of some of the victims on its front page. In the photos, which were taken on the day of the incident at the morgue of Sivas Numune Hospital, it is possible to make out bullet wounds on the bodies of the victims, but no visible burns. The photos were taken by the Sivas Chief Public Prosecutor's Office during an initial examination, said Yeni Akit.
The daily claimed that autopsy reports recording the cause of death as burns were filled with lies, noting that the photos corroborate the statement of noncommissioned officer Galip Deniz. In admissions made after the incident, Deniz stated, “There were some inside the hotel who were shot to death.”
Deniz also said that a special team of doctors and medics from the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) were present in Sivas on July 2 and retrieved the bullets taken from the bodies of the victims. He said the head doctor of the Sivas Numune Hospital had refused to sign the autopsy reports of the victims on the grounds that they included misleading information.
Yeni Akit said that from among the more than 100 photos and videos taken at the morgue, those featuring the victims with bullet wounds visible on their bodies were removed from the dossier of the case.
“The evidence indicating that the deep state, which had implemented a plan step-by-step, wanted to increase the death toll by planting its members, posing as intellectuals in the hotel, never reached the Sivas Public Prosecutor's Office,” said the daily.
Since the first day of the trial, many people, including then-Sivas Governor Ahmet Karabilgin, have accused the military of not intervening to stop the massacre, which is one of four pogroms suffered by Alevis in Turkey in the last three decades.
The public was outraged when the trial, which had spanned almost two decades, was dropped by an Ankara court on March 13 because the statute of limitations had passed.
The foremost critics are members of Turkey's Alevi community, who have called for another investigation into the massacre and who was behind it. The Malatya Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor's Office initiated a new probe later in March, obtaining all files concerning the case from the Erzurum Specially Authorized Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, the original investigating body.
Survivors of the massacre and relatives of the victims have said that the state investigation was ineffectual, and that the Sivas police chief, governor and interior minister, along with the deputy prime minister and prime minister of the time, should be investigated for their failure to intervene in events following the incident.
Some, including Felicity Party (SP) member Temel Karamollaoğlu, who was the mayor of Sivas at the time under the Welfare Party (RP), have been the subjects of various accusations in the media, some outlets claiming that there is more to Sivas than meets the eye. It has also been alleged in the media that important elements of the evidence indicating that the massacre was masterminded and orchestrated by clandestine groups nested within the state, such as the terrorist Ergenekon network, has not been acted upon.
Ergenekon is a shadowy crime network which has alleged links within the state suspected of plotting to topple the government.