Killing of music student Kurkut by police during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır draws ire

The killing of a half-naked young man by the police allegedly “on suspicion of a suicide bomber” during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır on Monday has drew harsh reactions from groups from all walks of life in Turkey. As the young man has been identified as university student Kemal Kurkut, his body was received by his family to be buried in Malatya. The family refused the allegations that he was a suicide bomber.

Kurkut, who was born in Adıyaman, was a student in the Music Department of Fine Arts Faculty in Malatya’s İnönü University. His body was taken from the Malatya Institute of Forensic Medicine by his family and buried in Batalgazi district on Thursday.

Kurkut’s family has denied the allegations made by the Diyarbakır Governor Office that “The police intervened because there was a possibility that the man who ran into the ground with a knife in his hand, saying ‘I have a bomb in my pack, I will kill you all’ was a suicide bomber.”

The family said their son went to Diyarbakır just to attend the Nevruz celebrations. Some photographs of the killing have confirmed the family’s statement as Kurkut was seen in the photographs as bare-chested during the police shoot. Some emerged photographs have also showed that Kemal Kurkut had argument with the police at the checkpoint on Evrim Alataş Avenue and started to run to pass through the check point.

Moreover, according to some witnesses’ allegations, some of the policemen on the scene fired in the air as some others directly fired on him and Kurkut was shot despite a police chief’s clear order of “Don’t shoot.”

In the photos taken during the incident, Kurkut was seen bare-chested as he quarreling with police at the check point and starting to run passing through the check point. As some of the police fire in the air, some others fire on him.

The same photographs have also showed that Kurkut could ran some 10-15 meters, clutching his wound, then fell down behind the water cannon on the side of the road. Kurkut was hospitalized by the ambulance that arrived some 10 minutes later and lost his life there.

According to allegations, the police controlled the cameras of journalists in the scene and oblige them to empty the memory cards.

In a statement made on the day of the incident, the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office said Kurkut told police “There’s a bomb in my bag.” The photos show the student was carrying a knife but did not have a bag with him.

After the photos were published in the media, Diyarbakır Governor Hüseyin Aksoy issued a new statement, saying that “We said in our previous statement the suspect was carrying a knife and said he had a bomb in his bag. Security forces had to take into consideration the [safety of] people attending Nevruz celebrations and intervened. It is an unfortunate incident, and it is being investigated.”

Diyarbakır Bar Association President Ahmet Özmen said in a statement to reporters on Wednesday that “The footage of the moment in which Kemal Kurkut was shot shows that the incident is a violation of the right to life. The Diyarbakır Bar will pursue the investigation with determination.” The bar also demanded those responsible for the incident be suspended from duty.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, in a parliamentary question on Wednesday, asked why Kurkut was killed when instead he could have “been “neutralized” by hundreds of police officers in the area.”

In the question directed at Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Tanrıkulu also asked about allegations that the police made journalists delete footage of the incident.

“Is it true that police forced journalists in the area to delete the footage on their cameras as well as reformat their memory cards?” Tanrıkulu asked.

On Thursday afternoon, also, the police has stopped a car at a checkpoint near the Gazi Yaşargil Training and Research Hospital in Diyarbakır’s Yenişehir district. It is reported that a person in the car attempted to escape and was shot by police while running towards the field near the main road. Policemen entered the field with armored vehicles and forced the wounded person into one of their vehicles. While no information is available regarding the situation of the wounded person, the road has been closed to traffic.

March 23, 2017


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