DRAFT BILL REJECTED: AKP Supports Statute of Limitation for Sivas Massacre

AKP deputies voted against the initiative of CHP MPs to debate a proposal against the time-barring of the Sivas massacre in parliament. CHP deputy Tanrıkulu commented, “They will not be able to explain this to the public conscience”.

Ayça SÖYLEMEZ ayca@bianet.org
Ankara – BİA News Center 07 March 2012, Wednesday

Deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) unanimously rejected to debate in parliament a draft bill related to the abolishment of the statute of limitations regarding the Sivas massacre.
The “Law Proposal about Amendments of the Turkish Criminal Law” (No. 141) was submitted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ankara MP Emine Ülker Tarhan. It is currently pending in the commission. It was expected to be discussed in parliament on Tuesday (6 March).
Tanrıkulu said in an interview with bianet that AKP deputies voted against the related debate. “How are the deputies who raised their hands today to obstruct the debate on the proposal going to explain this to the public conscience?” he questioned.
The law proposal was submitted to the Parliamentary Presidency on 8 December 2011. It envisions the abolishment of the statute of limitations for crimes of “violation of the right to life”, “torture” and “sexual abuse of children”.
Assembly President Cemil Çiçek announced in a statement made on Tuesday that the draft bill had been forwarded to the Human Rights Research Commission and the Justice Commission on 20 December.
Tanrıkulu pointed out that the proposal might remain in the commissions for a long period of time whereas the Sivas trial was in danger to be closed by prescription in the meantime. Therefore, he applied to have a preliminary debate about the proposal in parliament on Tuesday.
According to Article 37 of the Procedures of Parliament, a preliminary debate on a proposal pending in the commission can be requested.
“I made use of that right because if no initiative is being taken for the debate there is the danger that it will not be debated until the end of term and eventually will be shelved”, Tanrıkulu explained.
“Our request was dismissed with the votes of the AKP deputies. Çiçek could have had the draft bill debated with priority in the advisory board of the assembly but he refrained from doing so”, Tanrıkulu criticized.
“The proposal could have been debated today which would have sped up procedures and the draft could have been passed into law. This way, the law could have been applied to the Sivas trial as well and would have stopped it from becoming time-barred”.
Tanrıkulu announced to reiterate his application. “After that, it depends on the will of the AKP deputies”, he added.
“In the scope of crimes against humanity”

The Sivas massacre in central Anatolia was an attack against Alevi intellectuals and artists. 35 people burned to death and two assailants died when the Madimak Hotel in Sivas was set on fire on 2 July 1993. The last trial about the Sivas massacre might be closed by prescription on 13 March.
Six of the defendants on trial are still fugitive.
Plaintiff lawyer Şenal Sarıhan had previously told bianet that the defendants were litigated under Aritcle 146/3 of the Turkish Criminal Law (Subversion). Even though they might benefit from the statute of limitation according to domestic law, international law had to be considered since the offences laid in within the scope of “crimes against humanity”.
Sarıhan reminded the fact that the six fugitive defendants got married in the meantime, had children and registered them at school. He added that it was incomprehensible that these people had not been arrested until today. (AS)


Sivas massacre suspects may go free

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.”

Source: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/03/06/Sivas-massacre-suspects-may-go-free/UPI-60551331051848/

Court Nearly Dropped Case against Suspects in Sivas Massacre

Joint attorneys only found out by coincidence that the statute of limitations was running out on a case against suspects.

Erol ÖNDEROĞLU erolonderoglu@gmail.com
Ankara – Sivas – BİA News Center 01 July 2009, Wednesday

On 2 July 1993, the Madimak Hotel in Sivas, central Anatolia, was set fire to when a congress of Alevi intellectuals and artists was meeting there. 37 people died and around 50 were injured.
What is today remembered as the “Sivas Massacre” was committed during the rule of the True Path Party (DYP) and Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) coalition. Security forces were accused of standing by and letting dozens of people be killed by a mob of tens of thousands. No official was ever held responsible for the murders.
33 people convicted

33 people were tried and convicted of “attempting to destroy constitutional order” and handed death penalties, which were converted into life sentences when Turkey abolished the death penalty.
More still searched for

The court case of another six people started in 2004. Among them is Cafer Erçakmak, accused of trying to push writer Aziz Nesin off the fire engine where he was being sheltered from the mob that had surrounded the hotel and was trying to prevent people from fleeing the fire.
The others are Şefket Erdoğan, Köksal Koçak, İhsan Çakmak, Hakan Karaca, Yılmaz Bağ and Necmi Karaömeroğlu.
Danger of case being dropped

Joint attorneys in the Sivas Massacre case only realised at the last minute that a court case has been continuing without their knowledge since 2004.
Lawyer Şenal Sarıhan told bianet that they were able to join the case at the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court at a point where the prosecutor was calling for the case to be dropped because its statute of limitations had run out.
The lawyers should have been informed about the case, but only found out about it accidentally from a journalist.
Application by joint attorneys

When they found out about the case, they managed to apply to join the trial on 19 December 2008. In their application they also stated that the crime of trying to destroy the constitutional order does not have a statute of limitations.
They called for an investigation into the positions and responsibilities of the defendants at the time of the massacre.
The court case will continue on 1 September, and the court has agreed to ask relevant institutions for information and documents on the defendants.
When the file returns from the Supreme Court of Appeals, there will also be an evaluation of whether police officers on duty on the day and victims should be asked to confirm the identities of the defendants.
State making no efforts to find defendants

Şenal Sarıhan has voiced criticism about the difficulties that the state seems to have had in finding suspects involved in the massacre.
Thus, Cafer Erçakmak, a councillor of the Welfare Party (RP) in Sivas at the time, is now said to be living in Germany. Sarıhan believes that the German authorities have been misled about his role in the massacre and are thus not returning him to Turkey.
Similiarly, İhsan Çakmak, was able to marry in the Altınyayla district of Sivas on 27 July 1999, i.e. at a time when he was wanted by the police. He started his military service on 22 May 1997 and was able to register the birth of his child officially.
He also got a driving license from the police in 2000 and became a civil servant in Istanbul in 2005.
Nevertheless, the state has been unable to find him…
Another defendant, Yılmaz Bağ, is also wanted by the police, but was able to marry after the warrant was issued.
Lawyer Sarıhan described this as “serious negligence”. (EÖ/AG)


Sivas Massacre Case Should Go On, Victims and Suspects Say

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

An Ankara court is expected to close the 1993 Sivas massacre case due to a statute of limitations on March 13, but neither the defendants nor the prosecution want the trial to be dropped.

Speaking on behalf of the families of the 33 victims, who were burned to death in a fire set by an Islamist mob during an Alevi cultural festival in the eastern province of Sivas, lawyer Şenal Sarıhan said even though the court is to drop the case due to the statute of limitations, they will continue to pursue their rights.

Muhammet Emin Özkan, a lawyer for suspect Muhsin Erbaş, also argued the case should not be dropped, for different reasons.

“The actual ones who burnt the hotel down and killed 37 people [33 intellectuals, two hotel staff and two protesters] should be discovered,” Özkan told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday on the phone. A lawyer for the victims said the charges had been an attempt to destroy constitutional order at the time, but now they say it was a crime against humanity.

The victims were killed on July 2, 1993, when the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was torched. In 2008, after 15 years had passed, an Ankara prosecutor demanded the case be dropped since it had been filed on the charges of attempting to destroy constitutional order, which has a 15-year statute of limitations. Although 79 people have been sentenced to jail so far, six suspects in the case are still missing.

“If the case ends on March 13, we will appeal to a higher court, and if we cannot get a result again, this case will go to the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] in the end,” Sarıhan told the Daily News. Sarıhan also argued the court should recognize the case as a crime against humanity, so it would not have a certain time limit.

Systematic discrimination
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Alevi Bektaşi Federation Chairman Selahattin Özel condemned the government for “backing the fugitives in the case by doing nothing to have them arrested” and said the government had a policy of systematic discrimination against Alevis.

“One of the suspects in the case, Cafer Erçakmak, was wanted worldwide by Interpol. But he died on July 10, 2011, in Sivas, where he had been living openly. They could have found him easily; they did not want to. The end of the Sivas massacre case will be proof of discrimination against Alevis,” Özel told the Daily News yesterday by phone.

Erçakmak had called on the crowd who burned the Madımak Hotel to lynch Aziz Nesin, a famous author, who narrowly escaped.

Minister of Customs and Trade Hayati Yazıcı also said on March 4 he hoped the court would not decide for a statute of limitations and the criminals would be punished. Yazıcı had served as a lawyer to one of the defendants.

Source: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/132098/sivas-massacre-case-should-go-on-victims-and-suspects-say.html