A police officer who stood trial for fatally shooting a young student, thinking he was a suicide bomber, at a Newroz celebration in southeastern Diyarbakır province in 2017 has been acquitted, Turkish media reported.
The prosecutor demanded a nine-year prison sentence for the officer, claiming that the shooting was excessive use of force. The indictment stated that although Diyarbakır was a province at high risk of terrorism and the victim, Kemal Kurkut, was carrying a knife, images from the scene showed he had no shirt on and that it was obvious he had no explosives on his person.
The indictment also said the police officer had enough experience to realize that the victim could have been neutralized without shooting him. It added that the officer fired his gun several times, another indication of excessive use of force.
Kurkut was a student in the department of fine arts at Malatya’s Inönü University and went to his hometown of Diyarbakır for Newroz celebrations. A bare-chested Kurkut quarreled with police at a checkpoint when he was trying to get into the Newroz venue, photos taken during the incident showed.
In a statement issued on the day of the shooting, 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.
Police found poetry books and clothes in Kurkut’s backpack after he was shot on suspicion that he was a suicide bomber.
President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association Cihan Aydın said the acquittal clearly showed that police brutality towards Kurds was not punished.
Former president of the Diyarbakır Bar Mehmet Emin Aktar condemned the court’s decision, saying that “a Kurd’s life was not worth a one-day prison sentence” to the Turkish judiciary.
An expert report in 2019 revealed that Kurkut was deliberately killed by the police officer during Nevruz celebrations in 2017.
According to the report Kurkut was not killed by a stray bullet but purposely shot by the police officer. The report claimed slow-motion footage of the shooting analyzed by forensic experts proves the victim was shot from behind when the suspect fired his pistol.
The report also points to evidence from the autopsy report that is line with the characteristics of the bullet hole in the victim’s body, which also showed he was directly targeted.