Turkey court to hear witnesses in police murder trial

Korkmaz died after being pummelled with baseball bats and truncheons during last year's anti-regime protests.

Afp May 12, 2014
People hold a Turkish national flag during a protest. PHOTO: AFP

KAYSERI: A Turkish court will hear key testimonies Monday in the trial of eight men, including four policemen, accused of beating a teenage student to death during anti-regime protests last year.

Ali Ismail Korkmaz died after being pummelled with baseball bats and truncheons in the western city of Eskisehir on June 2 - one of eight people to perish in the three weeks of protests that convulsed the country of 76 million.

Heval Yilmaz Karasu, who represents Korkmaz's family, told AFP on Sunday that almost a dozen key witnesses would give testimonies in the case.

"New evidence laid down in the expert report has disproved police testimonies," Gurkan Korkmaz, elder brother of Korkmaz and also a lawyer in the case, told AFP on Monday.

"We are demanding the immediate arrest of the suspects pending trial," he added. The case is likely to be concluded after two or three hearings.

About 1,000 protesters, mostly young people, gathered outside the courthouse in Kayseri despite tight security measures.

"Ali's murderer is the AKP police", they chanted, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "Youth will come, the AKP will go."

The attack was recorded by security cameras and the 19-year-old Korkmaz, wearing a "World Peace" T-shirt, suffered a brain haemorrhage and died after 38 days in a coma.

Eight men, including four plain-clothes policemen, are accused of premeditated murder and face between 10 years and life behind bars if convicted.

During the first hearing of the case in March, the four police officers denied beating Korkmaz to death.

An expert report analysing mobile phone signals and published in local media this month suggested the suspects may have been in the same area as Korkmaz on the day of the incident.

Karasu said that new evidence and witnesses' testimonies would determine the course of the case.

Authorities moved the trial nearly 350 miles east of Eskisehir to Kayseri in a bid to avoid fresh trouble.

An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets across Turkey over three weeks last June to demand Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's resignation. More than 8,000 people were injured, according to medics.

The death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan after 269 days in a coma in March brought the toll from the unrest to at least eight, including one policeman.

Erdogan called the demonstrators "vandals" and police used tear gas, plastic bullets and, according to Amnesty International, even live ammunition on the demonstrators. Thousands were arrested.

After 11 years at the helm, Erdogan has been accused of seeking "one-man rule" and erratically lashing out at critics, from former allies to street protesters and Twitter users.

Erdogan, 60, co-founder of the powerful AKP, scored a crushing victory in March 30 local elections despite corruption allegations targeting himself and his inner circle.

His handling of the graft scandal, and also of last year's unrest, have dented his popularity however and the Turkish strongman is now tipped to run for the largely ceremonial post of president in August.


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