The long, rocky road to justice in the case of Ali Ismail Korkmaz

page_ali-ismail-korkmaz-davasinda-4-tutuklama-istemi_174204089The fifth hearing in the killing of Ali Ismail Korkmaz will be held tomorrow, November 26, in Kayseri, Turkey.

Ali Ismail was a victim of the horrendous police violence that accompanied the suppression of the Gezi protests in 2013. In a statement to authorities before he died, he described the attack:

Five or six people came up to me, they beat me with clubs on my head, back, shoulder and legs. I fell to the ground….Yesterday I didn’t have difficulty in speaking, but today I can’t remember. One of my teeth is loose because of the incident. My head hurts, I have difficulty speaking. I don’t know who beat me or why. They were wearing civilian clothes. I want to make a complaint

Korkmaz was admitted to a hospital after making his statement, but soon fell into a coma. He died on July 10, 2013.

As Amnesty’s researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, described in a blog last winter, Turkish authorities seemed determined to undermine the quest for justice in the case. Following the attack, the Governor of Eskisehir said that police hadn’t been involved and that Ali Ismail Korkmaz had been beaten up ‘by his friends.’ Footage from a CCTV camera was deleted in the days following the incident, but was subsequently recovered by experts from the gendarmerie.

Four civilians and four police have been accused in the killing of Ali Ismail Korkmaz and are on trial in the provincial Turkish city of Kayseri. The hearings have resulted in large protests and been marked by the presence of thousands of riot police.  Nonetheless, the mere fact that the trial is taking place is “extraordinary,” according to Gardner.

Ali Ismail Korkmaz's family at a previous hearing

Ali Ismail Korkmaz’s family seeks justice

The successful prosecution of this case would mark an important blow against the stubborn tradition of police impunity in Turkey.  Perhaps more importantly, it would offer some small measure of justice, of comfort, of closure to Ali Ismail’s family.

Ali Ismail’s family will be there tomorrow.  Amnesty representatives will be at the court in Kayseri tomorrow as well: to remind the Korkmaz family that they are not alone.  And to remind Turkish authorities that the whole world is watching.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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