to the Van Third Criminal Court's decision on the Şemdinli bombing, the
noncommissioned officers found guilty could not have carried out the
attack without the protection and involvement of senior officers
ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
Van Third Criminal Court's decision in the case of the bookstore
explosion in Şemdinli on Nov. 9, 2005 said that the two noncommissioned
officers found guilty of the crime could not have carried out the act
without the tacit approval, protection and involvement of more senior
On June 19, the two noncommissioned
officers, Ali Kaya and Özcan İldeniz, were found guilty and sentenced
to serve 39 years and 10 days in prison. The court said the criminal
gang responsible could not have been funded or led by the
noncommissioned officers. �Those who founded this gang weren't these
noncommissioned officers. Without the protection and involvement of
senior officers, they could not have carried out these acts.�
court said the state should find those who were involved, noting that
the noncommissioned officers could not be found guilty of founding or
leading the gang, but of only being members.
the Van trial, the two soldiers had denied bombing the bookstore and
said they were following a suspect because of his alleged links with
the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Only days after
the convictions, the owner of the bookstore was arrested for suspected
links to the PKK. His arrest was based on the testimony of former PKK
members turned informants.
Nov. 9, 2005 a bomb exploded in a bookstore in Şemdinli,
located on the mountainous border with Iraq and Iran in the
southeastern province of Hakkari. Authorities initially suspected the
terrorist PKK in the attack, but allegations soon surfaced
that paramilitary forces may have been involved.
explosion occurred in a store owned by a former PKK member who had
served 15 years in jail for terrorist activities, only a week after a
car bomb, blamed on the PKK, injured 23 people in the same town. It was
revealed that a series of bombs had exploded in the region for six
months leading up to the incident.
The explosion on
Nov. 9 killed one and injured five. Locals captured the suspected
bomber and two gendarmerie officers who were standing next to a
car that apparently belonged to the gendarmerie, according to
documents seized in the car. An explosive device was found in the car,
similar to the one used in the explosion.
were turned in to the local police, but the two officers were later
released. Hours later, another paramilitary police officer fired shots
at a protesting crowd, killing one person, as an opposition
lawmaker and the local prosecutor examined the crime scene. That
officer was immediately arrested.
attack set off days of rioting that left four people dead as well as a
flurry of speculation that the security forces could be reverting to
summary executions of supporters of the PKK, which were not uncommon in
the 1990s when the fight against the terrorist group was at its most
the indictment prepared by former Van Prosecutor Ferhat Sarıkaya, it
was claimed that there was a wider conspiracy involving senior
officials in the military, with serious accusations leveled against
Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt. The prosecutor said Gen.
Büyükanıt had tried to influence a judicial process by praising one of
the officers found guilty as a �good soldier,� and abused his powers by
setting up an illegal organization to wreck Turkey's European Union
�If I am put on trial for
such a reason I will appear in court and defend myself," Gen. Büyükanıt
was quoted as saying to daily Hürriyet at the time. Gen. Büyükanıt
served in southeastern Turkey between 1997 and 2000.
of tension resulted Sarıkaya's indictment, with Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök holding a
meeting on the matter.
The Van prosecutor said the
illegal group's activities included blowing up the bookstore in
Şemdinli with the aim of provoking the government into blocking further
freedoms for Kurds, thus jeopardizing EU membership talks. The
accusations were reportedly based on the testimony of a single person.
believed the prosecutor's indictment was part of efforts to prevent
Gen. Büyükanıt from replacing Gen. Özkök as the chief of general staff
next month. Gen. Büyükanıt is likely to take over.
Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek ordered an inquiry into the conduct of Sarıkaya after the indictment was made public.
Supreme Board of Prosecutors' and Judges (HSYK) decided to disbar
Sarıkaya for preparing a faulty indictment. His appeal against his
disbarment was assessed and rejected by the HSYK Executive Board.
After the trial:
the court sentenced the officers, Kaya and İldeniz's lawyer Mahmut
Güler dismissed the trial as a travesty of justice. �The court didn't
listen to Kaya's defense. Reaching a decision under these conditions is
improper. It appears the court wanted to send a message to the EU. I
don't know why but EU representatives were very interested in this
trial. Their presence constituted undue pressure on the court. The
court ignored my clients' right to a fair trial. We will appeal this
decision as soon as possible.�
Sezgin Tanrıkulu said after the court session that the decision was
very important for Turkish justice, noting that the defendants were
already found guilty in the court of public opinion. �With the court's
decision, they have been found guilty once again.� He said the case was
not limited to three individuals and added that they were determined to
follow it to wherever it led to.
EU praises convictions:
swift conviction of the two soldiers was an encouraging sign of growing
civilian control over the military, a senior EU official said after the
conclusion of the trial.
"The verdict came in a
rather short time. This is definitely positive ... compared to other
cases that have been going on for years," said Hansjoerg Kretschmer,
the representative of the European Commission Delegation in
Turkey. "It is also very important that the two soldiers were tried in
a civilian court," he said. "This is closely related to civilian
control over the military, on which we place great importance in the EU
process." Kretschmer said it was "very encouraging" that the court
rendered its verdict with "no political influence" from either the
government or army.
The trial was widely seen as a
test for Ankara to prove its commitment to the supremacy of law as part
of its efforts to join the EU. Many of the far-reaching reforms Ankara
has undertaken over the past several years to bring Turkey in line with
EU democracy norms have been aimed at limiting the military's
powers and its role in political decision-making.