Amid a culture of impunity, court changes prison sentence of soldier who ran over elderly woman with armored vehicle to a fine

In the case of special sergeant S.K., who killed 85-year-old Pakize Hazar in June 2017 with an armored vehicle in a street closed to traffic, the Gaziantep Regional Appeals Court ruled to change his two-year, six month prison sentence to a fine of TL18,200 ($2,460), to be paid in 24 monthly installments.

According to a report by Şehriban Aslan of JinNews, the court changed the prison sentence to a fine taking into consideration his “personality, social and economic status and the way the crime was committed.”

Video footage of the incident shows the military vehicle moving from a parked position while Hazar walks to the left of it. When the woman is about to cross in front of the vehicle, it starts moving. A person in the area who sees the woman approaches the vehicle at a distance of two meters and makes some gestures to warn the soldiers that there is someone near them and that they should stop. The vehicle moves despite the warning, and the woman is crushed to death. The military vehicle is seen moving on despite the tragedy it left behind.

As part of an investigation launched by the Lice Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the driver of the military vehicle, special sergeant S.K., was briefly detained. An indictment, comprising only one paragraph, was drafted by the prosecutor’s office against S.K. seeking a prison sentence of between two and six years on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

A report on the incident drafted by the Lice Gendarmerie Command found S.K. free of fault although he was driving the vehicle in an area that was closed to traffic, while the victim was found to be at fault on the grounds that she acted carelessly.

When Serdar Yel, the lawyer for the Hazar family, objected to the report and asked that it be sent to the Ankara Council of Forensic Medicine’s (ATK) traffic department, the ATK found S.K. to be at fault because he drove the vehicle on a road that was closed to traffic and that Hazar was within his field of vision.

According to Hazar’s daughter, Şaile Gültekin, the suspects in her mother’s case and other similar cases are rewarded with a lack of serious punishment. “What kind of justice is this, how can they ignore a crime?” she asked. “Is my mother’s life so cheap? They tell us, ‘You are Kurds; this is enough for you,’ and think we are worthy of all kinds of injustice. They ignore us because we are Kurds.”

Gültekin said they will fight for justice no matter how long it takes.

In recent years, dozens have been killed when they were run over or shot at by armored vehicles. The cases are common in Turkey’s Southeast, where there is a heavy military presence due to clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

According to a report by the Diyarbakır chapter of the Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), between 2008 and 2018 a total of 63 incidents involving armored vehicles resulted in the death of 36 civilians, including 16 children and six women, and the injury of another 85. All criminal cases ended in non-punishment. Short prison sentences issued to some army or police officers were mostly converted into fines.

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