ISTANBUL, Turkey, March 6 (UPI) — Suspects in Turkey’s 1993 Sivas massacre may go free because too much time has passed, officials said.
Thirty-seven people, including 33 artists and intellectuals, died in a fire the Madimak Hotel on July 2, 1993, that was allegedly set by an angry mob of Islamic fundamentalists protesting the arrival of writer Aziz Nesin, who was accused of spreading atheism.
Two of the seven suspects have died but five others are likely to go free at a court hearing March 13 because of the statute of limitations, Today’s Zaman reported. Critics say the case has never been thoroughly investigated.
Felicity Party member Temel Karamollaoglu, who was the mayor of Sivas at the time, says the suspects have a right to vindicate themselves, the newspaper said. He said there are still many questions about the case and alleges the attack was orchestrated to inflame tensions between ethnic groups. “Their purpose was to create a Sunni-Alevi conflict,” he told the newspaper.
“That didn’t happen in Sivas, but the deaths that occurred during the incident brought the issue to a whole new level. Tension between Sunnis and Alevis was born.”
Ahmet Faruk Unsal, head of the human rights group Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples, said there are questions about the limited number of police who showed up to handle the attack. “We know that the [police] sent only a small unit that did not match the size of the mob. There are bullet holes in the bodies of those that died; it is not clear where those bullets came from,” he told Today’s Zaman.
“It should not be left to that statute of limitations because it is a dark stain on Sunni Muslims, and it will become permanent,” he said. “If the state is willing to live with this stain, that’s up to the state, but Sunni Muslims should not allow this to happen.”