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Turkey court hears witnesses in police murder trial

13 may 2014, 11:27
0

A Turkish court heard testimony on Monday that eight men, including four police officers, pummelled a teenage protester to death with baseball bats and truncheons during anti-government demonstrations last year, AFP reports.

Ali Ismail Korkmaz, 19, died after being repeatedly beaten during protests in the western city of Eskisehir on June 2 in an attack that was caught by security cameras. He was one of eight people to die in the three weeks of unrest that convulsed the country of 76 million.

"I saw Ali Ismail being kicked on his back and head again and again," Semih Berkay Yapici, a key eyewitness, told the court.

"He lost his balance, fell on the ground, hit his head on a stone and lost consciousness. His eyes were closed," he said in testimony that moved several in the courtroom to tears.

Yapici said once Korkmaz regained consciousness he was again kicked in the head. He tried to flee, but was then set upon by plain-clothes policemen, one wearing a gas mask, who ruthlessly kicked and beat him on the legs.

"He then took a turn and went out of my sight," said Yapici. "His face is etched into my memory."

Saban Gokpinar, one of the police suspects, took the floor and asked the witness: "How far can you trust someone who took part in the Gezi (park) protests," sparking anger among those in the courtroom.

Korkmaz was wearing a "World Peace" T-shirt at the time of the attack. He suffered a brain haemorrhage and died after 38 days in a coma.

Turhan Gurler, a friend who took Korkmaz to hospital, told the court: "Blood was pouring down his face and he had bruises. I asked him what happened and he answered he was beaten with batons on his head."

A video recorded by security cameras depicting the victim holding his friend Turhan's arm having been beaten was shown in court for the first time.

Eight men, including four policemen, are accused of premeditated murder and face up to life in prison if convicted. They deny the charges.

An expert report analysing mobile phone signals and published in local media this month suggested the suspects may have been in the same area as Korkmaz on the day of the incident.

"New evidence outlined in the expert report discredits the police testimony," Gurkan Korkmaz, the victim's elder brother and also a lawyer, told AFP.

"We are demanding the immediate arrest of all suspects pending trial," he added.

The court ordered Monday that five of the suspects including one policeman would remain under arrest pending trial, and adjourned the next hearing to July 14.

Gurkan, who shared a photo from the courtroom via Twitter, wrote: "Three unarrested police suspects arrived in the room, and took refuge nearby their colleagues. They are in the same screenshot with my mother and father!"

There were tense scenes in the courtroom as defence laywers grilled the witnesses with questions that the victim's family described as "provocative".

Around 1,000 protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Kayseri on Monday despite tight security measures. Riot police were on standby, and major roads were closed to traffic.

"Ali's murderer is the AKP police", they chanted, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "Young people will take over and the AKP will go."

Many were young people who had taken part in last year's street demonstrations. Some carried portraits of Korkmaz.

'I will keep on fighting'

Korkmaz's parents were applauded as they walked into the courtroom.

"I will keep on fighting until the end," his mother Emel told reporters outside the court house.

"Mother, don't cry, your sons are here," protesters shouted in solidarity.

An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets across Turkey over three weeks last year to demand Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's resignation. More than 8,000 people were injured, according to medics.

The death in March of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan after 269 days in a coma brought the death toll to at least eight, including one policeman.

Elvan's father, who has attended the Korkmaz trial, had sought permission to be formally involved in the case, saying his son was also murdered by the police, but his request was rejected by the court.

At least one lawmaker from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) attended Monday's hearing.

The demonstrations last year began as a protest against plans to build over a park in Istanbul and spread to become the biggest challenge to Erdogan's rule since his AKP party came to power in 2002.


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