Acquittal of nine Ceylanpinar murder suspects upheld

A Turkish Higher Court on Tuesday upheld the acquittal verdicts given to the nine suspects in the controversial murder case of two police officers in the border town of Ceylanpinar in 2015.

The killing of the officers marked the end of the peace talks held between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group that has waged an armed insurgency in southeastern Turkey for decades.

PKK initially claimed responsibility but later denied any links to the murders.

The acquittal of the defendants effectively renders the case unsolved, with the assailants still unidentified.

In the wake of the murders, an anonymous tip-off prompted the police to arrest the nine, who then faced murder charges.

Peace talks

In late 2012, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sought to terminate the armed conflict with the PKK.

Dubbed by the government as “the solution process,” the move resulted in a ceasefire with PKK from 2013 onwards.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs had been actively participating in the peace talks, with visits by them to the imprisoned leader of PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, taking place on a regular basis.

However, during the general election season in 2015, then HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas’ staunch criticism on Erdogan’s authoritarian inclinations prompted a rift between the two parties.

The ruling AKP lost its parliamentary majority after the June 2015 election, while HDP, for the first time in its history, went past the 10% threshold for representation by obtaining 13% of the votes.

Erdogan adopted a nationalist discourse in what his critics viewed as a bid to claim political ground lost to HDP. He said after the elections that the “solution process” was in “the fridge,” suggesting a suspension of the ceasefire.

Later on, Erdogan used the killing of two police officers near the border town of Ceylanpinar as a pretext to suspend the ceasefire between Turkish Armed Forces and PKK, flushing down the two-year-long peace that came after the 30 years of conflict.

Erdogan then aligned HDP, which had a Kurdish majority base and more than 6 million votes, with the outlawed PKK. He compelled other opposition parties to pick a side along the road. This helped the AKP win the next election in November 2015 with the support of nationalist votes.

Yet this did not halt military operations from taking place in the southeastern provinces of Turkey.  Round-the-clock curfews were declared in most of the cities along the southeastern border leading to a war-torn region with clashes taking place in the urban areas.

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