Turkey court to begin police brutality murder trial

2014-05-12 08:40
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

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Kayseri - A Turkish court will hear key testimonies on Monday in the trial of eight men, including four policemen, accused of beating a teenage student to death during anti-regime protests last year.

Ali Ismail Korkmaz died after being pummelled with baseball bats and truncheons in the western city of Eskisehir on 2 June - one of eight people to perish as three weeks of protests convulsed the country of 76 million.

"Almost a dozen key witnesses will give testimonies that are likely to determine the fate of the case," said lawyer Heval Yildiz Karasu, who represents Korkmaz's family, on Sunday.

The attack was recorded by security cameras and the 19-year-old student, wearing a "World Peace" T-shirt, suffered a brain haemorrhage and died after 38 days in a coma.

Eight men, including four plain-clothes policemen, are accused of premeditated murder and face between 10 years and life behind bars if convicted.

Trouble

During the first hearing of the case in March, the four police officers denied beating Korkmaz to death.

"Witnesses will tell the court Ali Ismail Korkmaz was beaten to death although police deny the charges," Karasu said.

An expert report analysing mobile phone signals and published in local media this month suggested the suspects may have been in the same area as Korkmaz on the day of the incident.

Karasu said that new evidence and witnesses' testimonies would determine the course of the case.

Authorities moved the trial over 500km east of Eskisehir to Kayseri in a bid to avoid fresh trouble.

Protests are expected on Monday to coincide with the second hearing, despite tight security measures.

An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets across Turkey over three weeks last June to demand Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's resignation. More than 8 000 people were injured, according to medics.

The death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan after 269 days in a coma in March brought the toll from the unrest to at least eight, including one policeman.

Erdogan called the demonstrators "vandals" and police used tear gas, plastic bullets and, according to Amnesty International, even live ammunition on the demonstrators. Thousands were arrested.

After 11 years at the helm, the man dubbed the "Sultan" by his loyal followers has been accused of seeking "one-man rule" and erratically lashing out at critics, from former allies to street protesters and Twitter users.

Erdogan, 60, co-founder of the powerful Justice and Development Party (AKP), scored a crushing victory in 30 March local elections despite corruption allegations targeting himself and his inner circle.

His handling of the graft scandal, and also of last year's unrest, have dented his popularity however and the Turkish leader is now tipped to run for the largely ceremonial post of president in August.
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