Turkish commander sought for 1993 deadly arson against Kurds has been collecting retirement pension

The Kurdish family massacred in 1993 (Photo: Rudaw)

Bülent Karaoğlu, a former regiment commander who has long been wanted for allegedly torching a house belonging to a Kurdish family and murdering nine people in the eastern province of Muş in October 1993, has been collecting his retirement pension, the Rudaw news website reported.

The revelation emerged during a hearing of Karaoğlu’s trial in absentia before a Kırıkkale court on Wednesday, with the court ruling to requisition the defendant’s bank account number from the Social Security Institution (SGK).

Sought under an INTERPOL Red Notice since 2021, Karaoğlu might possibly have the charges against him dropped since 30 years have passed since the incident.

Ahead of the hearing, the fugitive defendant’s lawyers petitioned the court, requesting the dismissal of the case on the grounds of expiration of the statute of limitations, while Kadir Karaçelik, an attorney for the victims, maintained that the statute of limitations does not apply to the case since it involves a crime against humanity in which an entire family was wiped out. The report said the court is to decide on its applicability in its final judgment.

On October 3, 1993, an arson in Muş province’s Korkut district took the lives of nine members of a family suspected of aiding and abetting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed separatist group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The incident left a single survivor, Aysel Öğüt, who immediately filed a criminal complaint alleging that the house was set on fire by soldiers. Local prosecutors, however, had maintained that the PKK was behind the incident.

In 2003 Öğüt lodged another complaint, which prompted a criminal investigation. In 2013, the investigation turned into a trial in which Karaoğlu as well as commanders Hanefi Akyıldız and Turhan Nurdoğan were charged, along with special operations police chief Şerafettin Uz.

The trial was later transferred from Muş to the central province of Kırıkkale for security reasons.

The prosecutors sought prison terms of between 180 and 225 years for each defendant. None has been convicted as of the present day.

An escalation between PKK insurgents and the Turkish military in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a sharp degradation of the human rights situation in the country’s predominantly Kurdish east and southeast, causing the death and displacement of civilian populations and the destruction of urban areas.

In addition to rights violations committed by the security forces, the period saw the enforced disappearance of hundreds of people in police custody, for which there still has been no accountability.

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