Turkey’s ministers challenged over Kurdish activist murder investigation

Turkey’s justice and interior ministers have been challenged over new evidence related to the shooting of a prominent Kurdish lawyer and activist, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Thursday.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Meral Danis Bestas questioned the two ministers in parliamentary questions as to what had happened to a policeman who was led away from the crime scene where Elci was shot dead.

Elci, the then-chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was shot dead while making a public statement in the Sur district of Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir province on November 28, 2015.

Bestas, the HDP’s lawmaker for the southeastern Siirt province, on Thursday directed 16 questions in two separate motions to Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

The questions were on the newly-discovered evidence related to Elci’s killing – a crime which has still not been solved after four years.

Elci family and human rights defenders argue that there has been no effective investigation into the shooting as the person responsible for the fatal shot is still unknown and the case has no suspects.

Bestas on Thursday highlighted the fact that the investigation had not progressed at all in the past four years. Additionally, she pointed out that there were concrete signs indicating that the evidence in the case had not been examined effectively.

She also stated, based on a report recently added to the case file, that video footage showing that immediately after Elci was shot, a police officer identified as Fuat Tan was led by his two colleagues away from the street where the incident happened.

According to the report, the footage also shows Tan making suspicious moves such as going back and forth in another street that is reportedly not far from the crime scene.

“Why has Fuat Tan not been summoned to court as a suspect to give a statement regarding his actions in the video footage?” Bestas on Thursday questioned.

The MP also wanted to know whether Tan still holds the same position as a police officer and whether an administrative investigation was launched against him.

Bestas also stressed the witness claim that Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) head Yalcin Buyuk tampered with crucial evidence that could have solved the murder.

This, she said, “increases worries that Elci’s case will remain unsolved”.

Witness Mehtap Altug, an ATK staff member, alleges that Buyuk had a DNA sample belonging to a male individual removed as evidence from the National Judiciary Informatics System, the official database of Turkey’s judiciary.

“Did you reobtain the evidence that Mehtap Altug claims to have been removed from the official database in the statement she gave in 2016? Did you examine the allegedly removed evidence?” the pro-Kurdish MP further questioned.

“Why do you, as a reflex, protect perpetrators in unidentified murder cases [in Turkey] especially when the perpetrator is a member of the police force?” Bestas asked.

She added: “Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to [protect] the citizens’ right to life? Why do you normalize unidentified murder cases where the perpetrators remain hidden?”

“Why don’t you choose to try and solve this murder in order to prevent possible others?”

A two-year-long peace process between Turkey’s AK Party (AKP) government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants ended in 2015, around the time when Elci was killed.

The collapse of the process triggered armed conflicts between Turkish forces and the Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast.

The well-known Kurdish lawyer was slain during a press statement where he was urging the Turkish government and the PKK, which has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, to keep clashes away from civilian areas in the region.

Turkey’s forensics chief tampers with murder evidence: Report

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