Sivas case to be dropped as statute of limitations expires today

March 12, 2012, Monday/ 17:31:00

A nearly two-decade-long trial regarding the deaths of 37 people staying at the Madımak Hotel in Sivas during an Alevi festival in July 1993 will be dropped today due to the statute of limitations, meaning the case will be closed and the remaining four suspects will face no sentence.

On July 2, 1993, 37 people were killed inside the Madımak Hotel when an angry mob set the building on fire. Seven of the suspects are at large and two, Cafer Erçakmak and Yılmaz Bağ, are now deceased. The remaining five are likely to walk free as the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court will decide in its hearing scheduled for today on whether to drop the case on the grounds that too much time has passed since the event took place.

In remarks to Today's Zaman, rights group activist and lawyer Erdal Doğan said the case being dropped due to the statute of limitations will be a disaster for the judicial system in this country. According to him, the Sivas massacre and other bloody incidents in the near past were carried out by a Gladio-type organization nested within the state.

He said from the very beginning of the trials that only hitmen, who constituted the tip of the iceberg, were tried but that those who coordinated and planned the incidents behind the scenes were never touched or faced investigation.

Regarding the heated discussions over the statute of limitations on the two-decade-long trial, Doğan claimed the Sivas Madımak massacre cannot be assessed within the statute of limitations on time considering the fact that it was a crime against humanity.

Public prosecutors had filed criminal charges against 111 suspects starting in October 1993. According to the previous Turkish Penal Code (TCK), the statute of limitations was 15 years for crimes that targeted the constitutional order. Prosecutor Hakan Yüksel claimed at the last hearing of the trial that the statute of limitations had expired in 2008 for those suspects who faced charges of destroying the constitutional order. For that reason, the case should be dropped, he said.

While 107 suspects were sentenced to various terms of punishment, most faced light sentences. The remaining four suspects have faced no sentence. The trial of the four suspects brought the issue of the statute of limitations to the spotlight as the prosecutor demanded the case be dropped, citing the expired statute of limitations in a hearing in the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court in early March. The court will rule today on whether the case will be dropped or not. Doğan noted that if the case is dropped on the order of the court, the families of the victims will most probably bring it to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Lawyer Doğan, who is active among rights groups, follows well-known cases such as the Dink murder case, the Malatya Zirve Publishing House case and others.

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