A convict, who was serving an aggravated life sentence for his involvement in the deaths of 37 people, has been set free following the intervention of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Bianet news portal reported on Friday.
Ahmet Turan Kilic, 86, was convicted of killing 37, most of whom were Alevi, during the 1993 Madimak Hotel Massacre in the central Anatolian province of Sivas, where the victims were participating in a cultural festival.
Erdogan’s decree setting him free came after Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) issued a report on Kilic’s health problems.
The convict was released following the publication of the decree in the Official Gazette on Friday.
“Unfortunately, I am not surprised,” said Huseyin Mat, the chair of the Federation of Alevi Unions in Germany (AABF), referring to the allegedly continuing backing by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to the convicts.
Fadime Topac, a lawmaker for Germany’s Green Party, also condemned Erdogan’s act, saying, “This is a slap in the face of the [Turkish] public.”
“The [Turkish] state, which has not taken any step in the interest of justice [in the massacre case], is now taking up saving [releasing] the convicts,” said Zeynep Altiok, a daughter of Metin Altiok, one of the victims.
Speaking to Bianet, the daughter pointed to the fact that there were hundreds of sick inmates waiting for their release based on the ATK reports, referring to Kilic’s sympathy to the AKP government.
Pro-government media outlets have long been campaigning for Kilic’s release, Altiok claimed.
“I am wondering how such a personal relationship [between Erdogan and the released convicts is available] that led to their releases. Can Erdogan perform such an act [commutation] for all the ill prisoners?” asked Altiok.
Altiok went on to say that Kilic was not the only convict who has been released so far.
Previously, when she was a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Altiok had lodged parliamentary inquiries directed to the judicial authorities, questioning the number of the massacre convicts in the prisons and the release.
However, her attempts were left unanswered by the parliamentary speaker’s office, which said that my questions were “long and personal.”
“Because there is a list of convicts that they [the AKP government] keep secret. We [still] do not know and cannot reach information on how many people [convicts] have been released and still imprisoned,” said the former MP.
Altiok also alleged that the ATK doctors, who had previously not issued sick reports for Kilic, were subjected to investigations by the AKP government.
“I think the President has thrown his personal weight around [the issue], as no results could be obtained from the ATK [until this time],” Altiok argued.
Thirty-three intellectuals and two hotel workers lost their lives in the Madimak Hotel on July 2, 1993, when it was set alight by a mob of extremists — two of whom also died in the arson attack that targeted Aziz Nesin, a Turkish writer.
That was because of his translation work on a novel called “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie, a British-Indian novelist known for his anti-Islamic stance.
The victims, together with some others, mostly Alevis, were in Sivas at the time to attend a festival for Pir Sultan Abdal, a Turkish Alevi poet.
A total of 124 people were arrested concerning the incident. After a seven-year trial period, 33 people were sentenced to death, penalties which were later converted to life imprisonment due to changes in the law. Another 91 were handed varying prison sentences.
On 13 March 2012, the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court decreed that the Madımak Trials had lapsed due to time and declared a statute of limitations.
“May this bring good fortune,” the then Prime Minister Erdogan said on the same day.
After the 9th Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the ruling by the lower court, Senal Sarihan, an attorney, took the case to the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM) in 2014.
The AYM is yet to announce its judgment since then.
The Alevis, the country’s largest religious minority, have long been victims of discrimination in many areas of life, including education, social and religious life, according to many analysts.