Two months after an appeals court in Turkey revoked a ruling ordering compensation to be paid to a family whose son was killed by police during the 2017 Newroz celebrations in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakır (Amed), another appeals court has ruled that the police were justified in using lethal force against the victim, and rejected the family’s appeal for the earlier acquittal of the police officer involved to be revoked.
The fatal incident occured in Diyarbakır on 21 March 2017, when Kemal Kurkut, a fine arts student at university, was killed by police near a checkpoint during the Newroz celebrations. The city governorate immediately released a statement, saying: “The police intervened, having assessed that there was a probability that he was a suicide bomber, because he was running towards the demonstration area knife in hand, crying, ‘I’ve got a bomb in my bag, I’m going to kill you all’.”
However, on the following day, photographs taken of the incident by a journalist emerged which showed clearly that the governor’s claims were unfounded, that not only was the young man carrying no more than a bottle of water in his hands, but also that he was fully naked on top and there was obviously nothing fastened to his body.
The photographer, Abdurrahman Gök, was later indicted on allegations of ‘being a member of a terrorist organisation’, and two police officers were indicted for killing Kurkut. The officers were acquitted in a Diyarbakır court due to lack of evidence in January 2020.
Kurkut’s family also lodged a claim for compensation against the Turkish Interior Ministry. Although a Diyarbakır court ruled that compensation should be paid to the family by the ministry, this decision was revoked by an appeals court in January 2022, on grounds that Kurkut was classified as an ‘aggressor’, and that the police had used justified lethal force against him in the incident.
The final court decision rejecting the family’s appeal against the acquittal of the police officers involved was reached recently, in March. The appeals court asserted that the use of firearms by police officers in the incident was justified since the victim was an activist and ‘an aggressor’.