Europe

Anger in Turkey over police sentences for Gezi death

Protesters walk among tear gas smoke during a demonstration in front of the courthouse in Kayseri Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pictures showed demonstrators in Kayseri being tear gassed by police as they voiced their anger

The sentencing of two Turkish policemen over the death of a protester in 2013 has provoked demonstrations in Kayseri city in the Central Anatolia region.

Ali Ismail Korkmaz, 19, died during clashes between police, civilians and demonstrators south-east of Istanbul.

The officers were given 10-year prison terms but protesters outside the court in Kayseri said that was too lenient.

The 2013 unrest was sparked by plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park but grew into wider anti-government protests.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The victim's mother, Emel Korkmaz, was angry at the sentencing of the police officers
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the court to demand justice for Ali Ismail Korkmaz

The decision by the court, which had also sentenced four civilians to three to six years in prison and acquitted another two police officers, drew angry reaction from the gallery.

Korkmaz's mother Emel Korkmaz cursed the Turkish justice system as she left the courtroom, and the father of another victim of the Gezi protests shouted: "You are not the people's police, but the police of murderers".

As news of the sentence spread, comments appeared on social media criticising what many see as a "lenient" punishment. Images on Twitter showed people being tear gassed by police as they voiced their anger.

Speaking via a video link from a prison cell in Ankara, Mevlut Saldogan, the first policeman sentenced, admitted to attacking other protesters, but denied that he had murdered Korkmaz.

Like in previous hearings, he stated that he "did what was necessary", describing the Gezi protests as "an attempted coup".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Turkish plainclothes police carrying away a demonstrator at Taksim Square in 2013

Ali Ismail Korkmaz was beaten up during protests in the city of Eskisehir, south-east of Istanbul, in June 2013 and died the following month after more than five weeks in a coma.

The authorities decided to move the trial to Kayseri for security reasons.

Rallies against plans to redevelop Gezi Park began in May 2013 and turned into mass protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a heavy-handed police response.

Human rights organisations say thousands of demonstrators were injured by police but only a handful of cases have so far gone to court.

They say the case in Kayseri went ahead despite an attempted cover-up by the police, including the destruction of CCTV footage which was later recovered and became a key piece of evidence.

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