The panel of judges of the Ankara 6th High Criminal Court has decided to withdraw from hearing the chaotic trial of the killing of a protester in Ankara this summer.
The third hearing of the trial of the killing of Ethem Sarısülük, who was fatally shot by a police officer during Gezi Park protests in Ankara, began at the Ankara 6th High Criminal Court on Monday. Similar to previous hearings, Monday’s session was chaotic. Prosecutors accused the panel of judges of being “biased” and demanded the panel of judges withdraw from hearing the case.
Defendant Ahmet Şahbaz, who is currently on temporary duty in the Şanlıurfa Police Department, testified at the hearing of the trial via teleconference for security reasons.
Sarısülük’s family and Şahbaz’s lawyers attended the hearing.
In attendance at the hearing were also Republican People’s Party (CHP) Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün, Denizli deputy İlhan Cihaner, İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal and People’s Democracy Party (HDP) Co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü.
In a surprise decision, the panel of judges withdrew from the case. The Ankara 7th High Criminal Court will assess the reasoned decision of the panel’s withdrawal. If it rejects the decision, the withdrawn court board will have to resume hearing the case.
While announcing their withdrawal, the presiding judge of the court, Afak İlleez, recalled that the first court hearing was postponed because of a brawl in the courtroom and that there were many complaints about the decision to allow the defendant to testify through teleconference. Noting that the lawyers of the plaintiff made statements questioning the objectivity of the panel of judges, İlleez said the justices decided to withdraw from hearing the case because of the possibility that the events could cast a shadow over the neutrality of the court.
Police took precautionary measures in the area due to incidents that broke out at previous hearings of the trial.
Sarısülük was shot during the Gezi Park protests in Ankara in early June. The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office had pressed charges against Şahbaz for the shooting, but he was later released pending trial. This sparked widespread controversy, as video footage of the shooting was circulated by media outlets. Police have claimed that Şahbaz did not directly target Sarısülük and that the shooting was accidental.
The court was earlier forced to postpone a hearing in the trial due to disorder in the courtroom.
A scuffle erupted when relatives of Sarısülük attacked lawyers representing Şahbaz, who is facing charges of using excessive force and killing the protester, at the first hearing of the trial.
The protests, which started after a number of trees were cut down as part of the Taksim Pedestrianization Project in İstanbul, quickly spread across Turkey and morphed into much bigger anti-government protests.