Turkey’s judiciary has come under fire following a local court decision to acquit 17 murder suspects accused of executing 19 people between 1993 and 1996, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Friday.
The Head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Cihan Aydin on Friday, said: “The case against 17 public officers who had been charged with murdering 19 people, including our colleagues Medet Serhad, Faik Candan, and Yusuf Ekinci, ended with acquittals of all suspects.”
The case he referred to is widely known as the Ankara JITEM case named after the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Organization (JITEM), and its suspects include ex-interior minister Mehmet Agar and former high-ranking special operations and intelligence officials.
JITEM was blamed for engaging in torture, disappearance, and execution of Kurdish politicians and businesspeople during the 1990s, a time of bloody conflict between Turkey and Kurdish separatists.
“This verdict [of acquittal] might have a meaning for Turkish Law, but these cases of enforced disappearances and executions are defined as crimes against humanity by the international law, and they have no statute of limitations,” Aydin noted.
Aydin was speaking during the 206th event of the weekly-held ceremony organized by the Diyarbakir Bar Association to commemorate its former chairperson Tahir Elci, who was murdered in Turkey’s southeast on November 28, 2015.
Ex-prime ministers Bulent Ecevit and Mesut Yilmaz officially confirmed the existence of Turkey’s highly controversial paramilitary force JITEM for the first time after the Susurluk incident, a deadly car crash that exposed the links between state officials and organized crime bosses.
“Our slain chairman Tahir Elci insistently followed this [JITEM] case, and we will continue to do so from now on,” he promised.
Aydin further stated on Friday that the Diyarbakir Bar Association would also continue to fearlessly demand that perpetrators of Elci murder be brought to justice.
Prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist Elci was shot dead during a press conference where he was urging the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to keep clashes in southeastern Turkey away from civilian areas in the region.
The PKK, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Ankara, is an armed militant group of separatists who have been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.