Police officer convicted of killing teenager with armored vehicle given reduced sentence due to ‘good conduct’ in hearings he never attended

A police officer identified only by the initials S.K. was given a reduced sentence of four years, five months and 10 days for the death of Şahin Öner, 18, after he hit him with an armored vehicle, due to “good conduct” displayed during the hearings, despite the fact that the defendant never appeared in court, Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish reported.

Öner was killed in Diyarbakır province on February 10, 2013. Diyarbakır Governor Mustafa Toprak had claimed that Öner was killed due to the explosion of a grenade he was trying to throw at the police.

In its initial report the Institute of Forensic Medicine said he was killed by an explosion. But after a re-examination following objections based on witness testimony, the autopsy revealed that he was crushed by a vehicle.

Witnesses also claimed that Öner was taken to a police station instead of a hospital following the incident. According to their account, Öner was kept there for close to an hour despite being injured, and his fingerprints were taken. He was only transported to a hospital by ambulance after his condition deteriorated further.

At the final hearing of the trial on Tuesday, Öner’s father Mehmet Şirin Öner said S.K. was guilty of first degree murder because he took his son to a police station instead of a hospital after the incident.

According to the prosecutor, S.K. deliberately drove the armored police vehicle into a group of protestors and tried to hide the crime by trying to make it appear that Öner was killed in an explosion. An expert report prepared in 2015 said police officer S.K. was at fault for not taking the necessary precautions while operating the vehicle.

The case dragged on after the court’s request for a re-examination of the crime scene was postponed for two years due to various reasons. The court only requested the camera footage from the armored vehicle seven years after the incident, which was never retrieved.

The killing of civilians by military vehicles is common in Turkey’s Southeast, where there is a heavy police and military presence due to ongoing clashes between Turkish forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

According to a report by the Human Rights Association (İHD) Diyarbakır branch, 36 people, including six women and 16 children, have been killed and 85 have been injured in 63 accidents involving armored vehicles over the past 10 years.

A 7-year-old boy, Miraç Miroğlu, was riding a bicycle when he was hit and killed by an armored vehicle in September.

In May 2017 two children were killed when an armored police vehicle rammed into their house in the Silopi district of Şırnak province while the children were asleep.

Seven-year-old Berfin Dilek was also hit and killed by an armored police vehicle on her way home from school in the Dargeçit district of southeastern Mardin province on February 9, 2017.

Speaking to DW, Mehmet Emin Tümür, co-chair of the Diyarbakır branch of the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers, said armored vehicles are too heavy and too large for residential areas.

“These vehicles have too many blind spots, and it’s very difficult to sense your surroundings,” he said. “If these vehicles are driven above the speed limit, it becomes very difficult to control them.”

Tümür said the vehicles need to be fitted with better sensory devices if they are to be used in cities. He added that it was quite dangerous for them to be driven in city traffic and pedestrian areas because they were developed to be used in fields and warzones.

“These vehicles need to be fitted with alarm systems that will warn people of their approach,” he said. “Drivers also need to slow their speed by 40 to 50 percent in addition to extra sensory devices that warn of the presence of a person in the street.”

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