“You killed my son on purpose!”
These are the words that Hatice Cömert cries out in the courtroom as she bursts into tears while watching the footage from the scene of the crime where her 22 year-old son, Abdullah Cömert, was hit in the head by a tear gas canister on 3 June 2013, and died of his injuries. The footage shows a police “scorpion” armoured vehicle firing tear gas canisters. All of us present in the courtroom can hear two shots and then people screaming out in fear “Abdullah, Abdullah”.
Together with AI Turkey’s media coordinator, Bahadır Gültekin, I’m present on 1 April to observe the third hearing in the case where police officer Ahmet Kuş faces up to 25 years imprisonment for the “intentional killing” of Abdullah Cömert. The indictment is prepared by prosecutor Murat Üzüm and according to Articles 81/1 and 21/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Police officer Ahmet Kuş was the operator of the vehicle that fired the canister that hit Abdullah. This has been confirmed by the Prosecutor’s office, and police officer Ahmet Kuş has stated that “he controllably fired the gas canister, not knowing it would be lethal on contact”.
Abdullah was one of millions that took to the streets all over Turkey and participated in the Gezi Park protests during the summer months of 2013 to protest the excessive use of violence that was authorized by the authorities against peaceful protesters. Abdullah fell victim to the police violence he was protesting.
For “security reasons” the trial is taking place in Balıkesir and not in the southern city of Antakya, Hatay, where Abdullah was killed. The only one that’s not present in the packed court room in Balıkesir is the defendant Ahmet Kuş. He’s in a court room in Mersin and connected to the court room in Balıkesir via telelink. On a small TV screen in the left corner on the wall behind the judges and the prosecutor, who sit together on a raised platform, we can barely see police officer Ahmet Kuş as the small TV screen is divided into four squares with four different pictures from the court room in Mersin and only one of them shows the defendant.
It’s almost as if he’s not there at all, and he doesn’t have to face anyone, especially not Abdullah’s mother, father, and his two brothers Adnan and Zafer sitting at the front seat in the court room holding two big pictures of their son and brother.
During the investigation and the trial police officer Ahmet Kuş was never suspended from his duties and is working in Mersin.
There’s no coincidence that the trial has been located to Balıkesir, a small city that’s not the easiest to reach, more than 2000 km from Antakya and a seven-hour bus ride from Istanbul. As a result there’s not a large crowd of people outside the court house in solidarity with Abdullah’s family, but still around fifty to seventy loyal supporters have found their way to Balıkesir on the day of the trial.
To find police officer Ahmet Kuş guilty of “intentional killing” it would, according to the law, be the prosecutor’s main task to establish beyond reasonable doubt that police officer Ahmet Kuş deliberately targeted Abdullah Cömert when he fired the tear gas canister that killed him. During the trial it became evident that it was the lawyers of Abdullah and his family, and especially the leading lawyer Ms. Hatice Can, who in her own words “has done the work that the prosecutor should have done and made all the footage and other relevant documentation available”.
During the trial on 1 April the impression was that the final statements of the prosecution and defence had been made and that it would be reasonable to expect the pronouncement of the ruling the day after on 2 April. Instead the next hearing was postponed until 12 June.
For Abdullah Cömert’s family this is an exhaustive and thorny journey into the Turkish legal system, and now they have to wait again before it comes to an end.
As a consequence of the strong and painful impact of watching and hearing the footage from the place and time Abdullah Cömert was killed, his mother Hatice had to leave the court room and be sent to hospital during the hearing because her blood pressure became dangerously high.
All she wants is justice for the killing of her son, and that not only police officer who is on trial, is held accountable, but also the chief officer who ordered Ahmet Kuş to fire the tear gas canisters is held accountable for his actions too.
Let’s hope that justice will be done on 12 June!
Amnesty International Norway