Top appeals court upholds acquittal of police officers accused of killing minors during Kurdish protest

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld the acquittal of three police officers accused of killing 8-year-old Enes Ata and 17-year-old Mahsum Mızrak by firing tear gas canisters during a 2006 protest in Diyarbakır, the Media and Law Studies Association reported on Thursday.

Special operations police officers Hayrettin Akar, Nuri Özgenç and Bilal Özkara stood trial for “causing death with possible intent” and faced life in prison.

In 2018 a high criminal court in Diyarbakır acquitted the defendants, citing a “lack of sufficient evidence” due to the inability to identify which weapons the canisters were fired from.

The autopsy reports conducted on the victims had described the cause of death as cerebral damage and hemorrhage resulting from the impact of a heavy object.

The courts also dismissed the Mızrak family’s criminal complaint against president and then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom they accused of instigating the lethal police violence against the protests with the remark, “What’s necessary will be done, even if it involves women and children.”

Barış Yavuz, a lawyer for the Mızrak family and an executive at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), claimed that the case was a demonstration of the state’s determination to ensure impunity until the end.

Yavuz said pieces of evidence that could help identify the weapon that shot the canister were lost while in the custody of the authorities.

Yavuz also highlighted a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment that found Turkey in violation of the minors’ right to life.

“Neither the local court nor the appeals courts made any reference to the ECtHR ruling. They acted and ruled as if it didn’t exist. That’s how the culture of impunity manifests itself,” he said, adding that they will take the case to the Constitutional Court.

In the 2006 protests that broke out in Diyarbakır and later spread to several provinces across Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, a total of 13 people lost their lives including seven minors.

Security forces were accused of using disproportionate force against the protesters, particularly after Erdoğan’s inflammatory rhetoric.

The authorities were also accused of tampering with or destroying evidence, by replacing the tear gas canister that hit Mızrak in the head with a shotgun shell and destroying Ata’s bloodied T-shirt.

Police radio communication recordings from the day of the incident were also entirely destroyed.

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