The witnesses in the Tahir Elçi murder trial changed their statements in the last session of the latest hearings, Yeni Yasam News Letter reports.
Legal representatives of bar associations from six Kurdish cities, Batman (Êlih), Bitlis (Bidlîs), Ağrı (Agirî), Mardin (Mêrdîn), Van (Wan) and Muş (Mûş) were denied access to the trial held in Diyarbakir, (Amed) on the grounds that the murder did not have any negative impact on the bar associations.
The chairman of Diyarbakır Bar Association, Tahir Elçi was shot and killed in 28 November 2015 in Amed’s Sur district, as he was about to make a public statement in front of the Sheikh Matar Mosque.
Simultaneously there was a chase of two civilians by state agents near the scene, and a shootout between the sides which left Tahir Elçi and two police officers dead.
Shortly before, on 15 October 2015, Elçi had made a public statement, live on a Turkish TV show which had immediately turned him into a political target.
He’d answered a question about his opinion on labeling the Kurdistan Workers Party PKK as a “terrorist organisation”, saying, “PKK is not a terrorist organization. Although some of its actions can be defined as terror, the PKK is an armed political movement. It’s a political movement with political demands and a significant social support.”
It was not clear after his murder on 28 November how and by whom he was shot.
Protected witness “I-61” did not remember his original statement
In the latest hearing at the court the witnesses made their statements by a remote televised system.
The protected witness, “I-61”, said that he didn’t remember his original statement, and when he was reminded by the court of what he had said before, he changed crucial points in his former statement. He said he saw people “getting out of a car and running to enter a street”, adding that he didn’t witness “the moment Elçi was shot”. Being reminded by the judge that he’d earlier said that Uğur Yakışır (code name “Haki”) was the person shot Elçi, “I-61” replied by saying, “I didnt see the mentioned person shoot at Tahir Elçi. They shot two police officers, then entered the street and ran away.”
The witness says he didn’t witness the moment Elçi was shot. Another witness Mehmet Türk replied to the judge’s question whether he saw Tahir Eçi before the moment he was shot, saying that he did not remember. “We were caught in the middle of the incident. When I turned back Tahir Elçi was lying on the ground. The police was shooting at people running away. I didn’t see the last shots” he said.
A “witness” says he’s never made a statement
A shocking statement was made Ekrem Özgün, serving a prison term, who said that he’d never made a witness statement before regarding the murder of Tahir Elçi. Indicating that he wasn’t even in Diyarbakir (Amed) at the time, he said that he was shot in Sur in another incident, that he exercised his right to remain silent after he was arrested and that he was treated in hospital for two months. He added the police tried to force him to make a statement on the murder of Tahir Elçi, but that he didn’t comply.
One of the lawyers, Gamze Yalçın, drew attention to the fact that there was the prosecutor’s signature under the alleged statement of Özgün, indicating that the file was manipulated. Mahsuni Karaman, another lawyer, asked Özgün whether he’d made a statement about witnessing PKK member Mahsum Gürkan, shoot Tahir Elçi. Özgün replied saying, “I’ve never made such a statement.”
Witness claims he was threatened for making a false statement
A fourth witness, Deniz Ataş, also serving a prison term, claimed that he was offered release from prison by the prosecutor in exchange for a statement. “I’m not literate. I signed everything they put in front of me.” he said. “They tortured me. They said I was to make a statement against Uğur and Mahsun to hold them responsible for the murder, or they would kill me. I was terrified and I made a statement.”
Tanrıkulu: The prosecutor created witnesses and manipulated them
Human rights lawyer and MP (Republican People’s Party) Sezgin Tanrıkulu said after the hearing that he was shocked to see how the prosecutor has “created” witnesses and manipulated them to making particular statements.
“He’s done that for the aim of concealing the true culprits in the case of the murder of the Diyarbakır Bar’s Chairman. The witnesses today rejected former statements; they said that they didn’t see militants shooting at Tahir Elçi. They said they were forced to make certain statements” Tanrıkulu said.
“Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor, the Ministry of Justice have to launch an investigation into the prosecutor who is responsible. Tahir Elçi was almost murdered in a live TV show before the whole world, and now they’re trying to steer the trial in a different direction through fabricated witnesses.”
The next session at the trial is to be held in 12 January 2022.