Four Kurdish Hizbullah gunmen connected to multiple murders in Turkey have been released under dubious circumstances, Yeni Yaşam newspaper reported.
The Kurdish Hizbullah, unrelated to the Lebanese Hezbollah, was an extremist Sunni group responsible for violence and terror in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority region during the 1990s.
The trial against the convicted Hizbullah members was renewed based on European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) norms, which have usually not been applied to the Turkish government’s opponents. As a result, Siraç Şanlı, Muhammet Ömer Faruk Aydın, Mehmet Emin Can, and Feysel Gürses, who committed the murders, were granted a stay of execution and subsequently released.
This release follows the alleged rapprochement between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), which has links to the Hizbullah.
Among the victims of the released gunmen was İbrahim Sarı, Secretary General of Dicle University Faculty of Medicine, who was murdered in 1999. The murder of Sarı involved a brutal strangulation using a pig tie -a method referred to as “domuz bağı” in Turkish and commonly employed by the group- after he was interrogated in a two-storey house in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) province. Police excavations at the property revealed the buried bodies of Sarı and 13 others, concealed beneath a layer of poured concrete.
Sarı’s decomposed body was identified by his family through a metal plate in his arm. The motive behind his kidnapping and murder was his opposition to the ideas of the Hizbullah, despite his role in presenting religious programs on a local television station in Diyarbakır.
The fundamentalist HÜDA-PAR party’s affiliation with Hizbullah has drawn media attention since it declared its participation in Turkey’s ruling alliance, led by the AKP, in the 14 May elections.
According to Kurdish journalist Fehim Işık, the AKP, in an attempt to regain credibility with Kurdish voters ahead of the elections, proposed that the Kurdish Islamist HÜDA-PAR join the People’s Alliance, which the AKP wants to portray as the representative of the Kurdish people. HÜDA-PAR welcomed the proposal and announced its decision to join the alliance. In fact, releases of the group’s convicted members have been going on for the last few years, in line with the suspected appeasement policy.
Another Hizbullah member who had tortured and killed at least three people was pardoned via a presidential decree ahead of the 14 May elections, on grounds often denied to political opponents of the president.
Siraç Şanlı, a long-sought-after figure and self-proclaimed “honorary imam” for the Hizbullah, turned himself in upon hearing about the mass release of other gunmen, amplifying concerns surrounding the government’s appeasement of particular groups associated with Islamic extremism. Şanlı was released after giving a statement without being detained for even a day.