Turkish authorities have handed down an aggravated life sentence to a 21-year-old man for allegedly taking part in street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014 that claimed the lives of 37 people, despite video footage presented in court of him at a wedding at the time of the protests.
According to Deutsche Welle Turkish service, Mazlum İçli, who was 14 at the time, was accused of being involved in the death of four people. However, video footage of İçli attending a wedding in Diyarbakir’s Keçiveren village, 140 kilometers from the protests, was presented in court.
İçli said he was performing as a musician at the wedding along with his father.
A group of experts confirmed that the person in the video was “most probably” İçli. The local gendarmerie also confirmed a wedding had taken place in Keçiveren during the time of the protests. Wedding organizers and a taxi driver said they had seen İçli during the wedding, and his mobile phone had emitted signals from the vicinity of the wedding.
In light of the new evidence the court decided to halt the execution of the sentence. However, at the last hearing an anonymous witness identified only as I.Ö. testified against İçli, after which the court sentenced him to prison. The witness said he did not know İçli personally but had seen him in the neighborhood and knew him to frequently take part in protests.
The protests between October 6-8, 2014, also known as the Kobani protests, were sparked by the takeover of the Syrian border town of Kobani by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Many of the Kurdish community in Turkey accused the Turkish army standing by and allowing ISIS to carry out a massacre in the town.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) tweeted an “urgent call” for people to take to the streets and demonstrate, and as a result the protests grew.
On January 7 a Turkish court accepted an indictment naming 108 people including jailed politicians Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, both former co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish HDP, in relation to the Kobani protests of 2014, seeking punishment for the suspects on various charges including 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.
Mithat Sancar, also an HDP deputy, said this was a “revenge trial.”
Mahsuni Karaman, İçli’s lawyer, said the sentence was political and that his client’s acquittal would set a precedent for the other ongoing trials. Karaman said his client, who had been in prison for seven years, must be immediately released.