A nearly two-decade trial regarding the deaths in 1993 of 33 artists and intellectuals, along with two hotel workers and two assailants, was dropped on Tuesday because the statute of limitations had run out, amid a protesting crowd in front of the courthouse.
On July 2, 1993, 33 people attending a conference on Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal died at the Madımak Hotel in Sivas when an angry mob set the building on fire. The ruling was announced by the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court after lawyers for the co-plaintiffs delivered their closing statements in Tuesday’s hearing. Angry crowds outside the courthouse protested. Riot police intervened rather forcefully, using tear gas to disperse the crowd. Some in the crowd dismantled the cobblestones on the street and used them to attack police officers. The incidents quickly turned into clashes between protestors and the police.
The court said the public cases against suspects Cafer Erçakmak and Yılmaz Bağ were dropped due to the fact that the two defendants had died, while the cases against Şevket Erdoğan, Köksal Koçak, İhsan Çakmak, Hakan Karaca and Necmi Karaömeroğlu were dropped on the grounds that too much time has passed. Presiding Judge Dündar Örsdemir, reading the verdict, said he agreed with arguments that statutes of limitations should not apply to crimes against humanity but that the offenders were not public or civil agencies. “Hence the decision to drop the cases,” he said.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Arınç said the trial of high-level public officials in charge at the time is more important than the trial of the assailants.
“An investigation may be launched into public officials of the time who are thought to be at fault in this massacre-like incident. For me, the investigation of the [Sivas] governor, interior minister, members of the government at the time, those who somehow had a role in how the incident ended up and the trial of those who indirectly caused the incident is more important than this [dropped] trial,” he said.
March 10, Saturday
Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies marched to Kürecik, Malatya, in protest of the deployment a NATO radar station in the neighborhood at the end of 2012.
Twenty suspects were detained following operations carried out by police in Diyarbakır, Siirt and Van against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
March 11, Sunday
The 26th meeting of the Abant Platform, which discussed problematic areas of the constitutional drafting process, suggested in its final declaration on Sunday regarding education being given in languages other than Turkish -- one of the most contentious issues that needs to be addressed in the new constitution -- that as long as the official language of the country is taught and learned, everyone should be given the opportunity to receive an education in their mother tongue. The platform’s latest meeting took place in the northwestern province of Bolu between March 9 and 11 and included the participation of a wide spectrum of intellectuals, lawyers, political leaders and journalists.
A parliamentary commission approved a bill seeking to increase the duration of compulsory education from eight years to 12 amidst a brawl that erupted between deputies of the main opposition CHP and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) during talks on the bill. Tensions were running high during Sunday’s commission meeting as well after deputies from the AK Party filled all of the seats in the meeting room and left no seats for opposition deputies.
The Supreme Court of Greece (Areios Pagos) dismissed the application for the reopening of the İskeçe (Xanthi) Turkish Union (İTB), which was closed in 1986, because the name contains the word “Turk.” The recent decision disappointed the Turkish-Muslim minority in Western Thrace for the second time, following a similar decision made in 2005 that sparked fury and anger among representatives of the community and their lawyers.
March 12, Monday
Four Turkish journalists detained on charges of links to an underground anti-government network were released. Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were among four journalists who were jailed pending trial in the Odatv case. Thirteen suspects are facing charges of involvement in the media wing of Ergenekon, a shadowy network believed to have plotted to topple the government.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has questioned Turkey on the 2004 shooting of a father and his 12-year-old son by police, demanding to know whether shooting at the father and son was really necessary as a last resort, seeking Turkey’s defense statement in a trial that is now being heard by the European court. Ahmet Kaymaz, a Kurdish truck driver, and his 12-year-old son, Uğur, were fatally shot by police outside their home in southeastern Mardin province in November 2004. During a police interrogation, the four police officers said they returned fire in self-defense during a counterterrorism operation targeting terrorists from the outlawed PKK in the region. But forensic evidence showed Uğur and Ahmet Kaymaz were shot repeatedly in the back at close range.
Forty-three suspects, including 13 soldiers and eight village guards, were detained after security units conducted simultaneous operations against dozens of smugglers in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
UN peace envoy Kofi Annan expressed deep concern over the violence in Syria, urging the world to send a clear message to Damascus that the killings of civilians must stop immediately. Annan met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, following talks in Qatar earlier in the day. Annan expressed deep concern over the violence in Syria, urging the world to send a clear message to Damascus that the killings of civilians must stop immediately. “There are grave and appalling reports of atrocities and abuses. The killing of civilians must stop now. The world has to send a clear and united message in this regard,” Annan told reporters upon his arrival in Ankara.
March 13, Tuesday
The parliamentary Human Rights Commission, in a report released on Tuesday, revealed that domestic violence and violence against women have doubled in the last four years in Turkey. The report prepared by a sub-commission of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission revealed that, according to gendarmerie and police statistics, Turkey witnessed 48,264 gender-based incidents of violence in 2008, 62,587 incidents in 2009, a total of 72,257 incidents in 2010 and 80,398 incidents in 2011.
Erdoğan and opposition leaders expressed opposing opinions regarding a recently proposed change to the education system that increases compulsory education from eight years to 12, at Tuesday’s parliamentary group meetings. At Tuesday’s parliamentary group meetings, AK Party leader Erdoğan as well as the leaders of the opposition CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lashed out at each other concerning the planned changes. Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also directed criticism at each other’s deputies, who were involved in the brawl in Parliament on Sunday.
Applications are now open for Turkish citizens living overseas to apply for the Foreign Student Acceptance Examination (YÖKS) required to study in Turkey.
A group of intellectuals, journalists, activists and members of civil society organizations mainly from the conservative wing of the Turkish public have launched an online signature campaign demanding an extensive and fair retrial in the murder case of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The group has launched the petition website adalettalebimizvar.com, where people can show their support by putting their names under the call.
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the National Police Department in a rare joint statement released on Tuesday denied media reports that the heads of the two institutions are clashing over intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism.
Hundreds of people staged a protest and attacked laborers in the central Turkish province of Kütahya on Tuesday night following rumors that workers at a construction site had raised a PKK flag. A group of youths stormed the construction site in Kütahya’s Emet district, setting ablaze the living quarters of construction workers.
CIA Director David Petraeus paid a surprise visit to Ankara, discussing developments in Syria and Iraq. Petraeus met with Prime Minister Erdoğan during his visit.
March 14, Wednesday
The Ministry of Justice has set up a website where users will be able to find Turkish translations of every ruling made by the ECtHR concerning Turkey, as well as statistics and international reports on the court. The Press Undersecretariat of the Ministry of Justice announced the launch of the website, saying the website was important to minimize human rights abuses and to ensure the swift execution of rulings made by the ECtHR.
Retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, who has been at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) since he was first arrested as a Sledgehammer suspect in 2011, was arrested by a Turkish court. Saygun arrived at the İstanbul Courthouse in Beşiktaş on Wednesday after a court issued a new warrant for his arrest.
Syria’s young Kurds, Arabs and Arameans in support of Syria’s opposition groups have recently joined forces to form the Syrian Youth Solidarity Committee against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and on Wednesday held their first meeting outside of Syria, in the Kızıltepe district of Turkey’s Mardin province.
March 15, Thursday
Turkey is doing its best to facilitate the accommodation of terrified Syrians fleeing the violence in their country at refugee camps in Hatay province, but may consider the creation of a buffer zone if it is deemed necessary, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said. He stated that 1,100 people from Syria have entered Hatay in the last 24 hours, adding that more are expected to come as the Syrian army is believed to be preparing to storm nearby villages in the city of Idlib, which saw a bloody massacre take place over the last few days. “Currently, there are more than 15,000 Syrian citizens in Turkey,” he said.
Lawyers of the family of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin who was shot dead by an ultra-nationalist teenager in broad daylight five years ago, have demanded prosecutors to investigate archives of the İstanbul and Trabzon branches of MİT in order to reveal the role of those agencies in not preventing the murder. “MİT’s responsibility has not been stressed so far even though it’s an institution that would naturally know about close dangers to Hrant Dink’s life,” the lawyers who held a press conference said.
Two Turkish journalists who were missing for five days in Syria are being held by Syrian intelligence, the Anatolia news agency reported. Anatolia quoted unnamed local sources as saying the two journalists were handed over to Syrian intelligence by pro-regime Shabiha militias in the village of al-Fua in the opposition bastion of Idlib. Idlib has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Syrian military and opposition forces in recent days.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic said Turkey and Montenegro can do so much more in the Balkans by coordinating their messages on stability while promoting ethnic and religious diversity in the region. “By passing harmonized messages the two countries can do much more on regional issues,” Luksic said, asking for stronger resolutions during high-level exchanges between the two countries.
March 16, Friday
A NATO helicopter crashed into a house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, the Turkish military and Afghan authorities announced. The crash came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the increasingly unpopular and costly war nearly 11 years into the conflict as most foreign combat troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashal paid a surprise visit to Ankara where he met with Prime Minister Erdoğan. The meeting reportedly focused mainly on Palestinian reconciliation. “There are positive developments regarding relations between Hamas and Fatah. We will assess these developments,” Erdoğan told reporters.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry told Turkish citizens in Syria to return to Turkey amidst increasing violence in its southern neighbor while the Turkish prime minister said measures such as creating a buffer zone may be considered.
Prime Minister Erdoğan said only the cases of suspects in the Sivas Massacre were dropped and not the case itself, in response to a question from reporters in Ankara.