A court in Diyarbakır (Amed) on Tuesday acquitted a Turkish police officer of charges in the Efe Tektekin case, a five-year-old Kurdish boy who lost his life after being run over by an armoured vehicle in 2019.
The boy was crossing the street when police officer İdris Aksoy ran him over. The officer was charged with causing death via negligence, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
The Forensic Medicine Institution (ATK) issued a report that found officer Aksoy to have ‘secondary fault’, and the prosecutor in the case demanded up to six years in prison for the death of the young boy.
In his defence statement, Aksoy said there were discrepancies between the first ATK report and a report added to the case files later. He petitioned for another report, but the court rejected his request.
“I am sorry about the incident. I would like to state that my conscience is clear, because I have no fault in this trial that has continued for three years,” Aksoy told the court.
Aksoy’s lawyers argued that the boy had jumped on to the road very suddenly, and that there had been no way for the officer to avoid hitting him.
In earlier hearings, Aksoy had told the court that the boy had struck the vehicle, instead of the vehicle hitting the boy. “I did not see the boy hit my vehicle because the armoured vehicle has a narrow angle of visibility and the boy was short,” he said.
The Tektekin family’s lawyer Sedat Çınar said the state’s responsibility to ensure the right to life, recognised by the European Court of Human Rights and Turkey’s Constitutional Court, had been violated in the death of the five-year-old.
The lawyer also argued that the investigation ahead of the trial had not been extensive enough.
“The vehicle was taken away immediately after the incident. No photographs were taken, no minutes were written about the accident, and no footage from nearby security cameras was gathered,” Çınar told the court.
According to the lawyer, there were witnesses who had seen the vehicle’s camera operating and had watched the footage. However, Aksoy’s precinct told the court the camera had malfunctioned, and no videos were submitted as evidence.
The family demanded the more severe crime of causing death via intentional negligence, the expulsion of the officer from the police force, and the annulment of his driving licence.
However, the court ruled that Aksoy had secondary responsibility in the incident, based on the ATK report, and that the primary culprit in the death were the boy himself and his family. The father was found to be at fault for not protecting his son.
The court also ruled that Aksoy had not acted with intention and rejected the prosecutor’s demands for a prison sentence.
Accused driver not taken under custody in other case
The day of the sentencing coincided with another death caused by an armoured vehicle, in the neighbouring Mardin (Mêrdîn) province.
On January 11, 52-year-old Hazna Sü was hit by an armoured vehicle driven by Specialised Sergeant Bestami Duman in the Kızıltepe district. The armoured pick-up truck dragged the woman’s body for several yards, and she lost her life at the scene, according to a report by newspaper Yeni Özgür Politika.
Witnesses reported seeing a foreign licence plate on the vehicle, which later turned out to belong to the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and was stationed in Syria.
The first hearing of the case against Duman was heard on Tuesday, with the Sü family demanding his arrest for manslaughter. The family also demanded that the court -a criminal court of first instance- rule for lack of jurisdiction and move the case to an assize court.
The court rejected the request for Duman’s arrest and removed a foreign travel ban that had been earlier placed on him as a precaution. The petition for the lack of jurisdiction will be assessed in the next hearing, which is scheduled for 26 May.
Between 2008 and 2018, at least 36 people lost their lives, and 85 others were injured in 63 recorded incidents involving armoured vehicles that belong to Turkish security forces, according to a report by the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD). The tally has been updated to at least 41 deaths and 52 injuries in 93 incidents since. Twenty of the deaths were of minors.
Most of the incidents involved armoured vehicles running people over in urban centres and side streets, while several people were killed by fire from armoured military vehicles.
“Official bodies and members of security forces driving the vehicles do not take preventative measures against potential risks and violations during the use of armoured vehicles, and they take disregarding and arbitrary actions,” the İHD said in the report.