Two non-commissioned army officers and their accomplices who had been caught red-handed in a bombing incident in 2005 have been acquitted in court today, at the end of a lengthy process of trials and re-trials over the years. The officers, Ali Kaya, Özcan İldeniz, and ex-convict Veysel Ateş who had turned ‘confessor’ and informer, were earlier sentenced to heavy prison terms.
The Umut Bookstore in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority town of Şemdinli (Şemzînan) was bombed on 9 November 2005 and one person was killed in the incident. The bookstore owner Seferi Yılmaz and others chased after the person alleged to have placed the bomb and caught him together with other individuals, as they were trying to get into a vehicle parked nearby.
Military identification documents were seized on Ali Kaya and Özcan İldeniz, both non-commissioned Gendarme Intelligence (JITEM) officers, and AK-47 rifles, materials used in manufacturing bombs, military vests and diagrams of the vicinity were found in the trunk of the vehicle.
After the two officers and their collaborator Ateş were convicted in 2012 on charges of murder, attempted murder and forming an illegal association, the ruling was overturned by an appeal court and the legal process started again. In October 2017, the three were acquitted of the charge of forming an illegal association while the trial resumed on the other two charges.
In the court session on 22 October 2021, the prosecutor claimed that the accused ought to be acquitted of the remaining charges, and that it was actually the victim, bookstore owner Seferi Yılmaz, who had been involved in criminal activities.
Finally, on 20 December, the court in the Kurdish-majority city of van (Wan) ruled that the accused were not guilty, reported Ferit Aslan on Medyascope.
The bookstore owner and victim, Seferi Yılmaz, criticised the prosecutor’s comments, stating that they were completely biased, and he expressed a strong reaction against the ruling.
“I still suffer the effects of the explosion in my ears. I chased after Veysel Ateş after the bombing, and caught him as he tried to get into a car parked 60 metres away. We caught these people at the scene red-handed.
“Ali Kaya opened the trunk of the car and grabbed a Kalashnikov rifle, trying to shoot at the people, but was stopped by the people around him. These people had been caught red-handed and delivered to the law.”
The chair of the Van Bar Association, Zülküf Uçar, said after the ruling: “This case was a part of all the cases of torture, mass killing of people in acid pits and extra-judicial executions that occurred in these lands.
“It was ascertained that the explosives used in the bombing incident were the same type as those seized in the trunk of the vehicle. But this report has not been included in the prosecutor’s final comments on the indictment. There are witness statements. Are they not of any significance?”
Yaşar Büyükanıt, the Turkish Commander of the General Staff in 2006, had caused great controversy and reaction after his remarks for one of the accused, Ali Kaya: “I know him. He’s a good boy.”
Büyükanıt was accused by the prosecutor at the time of attempting to influence the judiciary, and the prosecutor had called, without effect, for an inquiry into Büyükanıt’s remark.