The Lice Case

During a military operation held in the Lice county of Diyarbakır province on October 22 1993, 15 civilians, along with one soldier (Yüksel Bayar) and Gendarmerie Regional Commander Brigadier General Bahtiyar Aydın lost their lives. In the formal criminal charge brought against Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Regiment Commander Eşref Hatipoğlu and first lieutenant Tünay Yanardağ were accused of “creating an entity for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity, inciting the public to rebellion and mutual killing” under articles 313/2, 450/4-5 and 149 of the old Turkish Penal Court.

The hearing of the case which started in Diyarbakır was transferred to Eskişehir on “grounds of security” by the 5th Penal Department of the Supreme Court. Since there is no specially authorized court in Eskişehir, however, it was sent back to Diyarbakır from where it was forwarded to İzmir.

The 1st High Penal Court of İzmir then forwarded the file to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors on June 13, 2014 asking for permission to try public officials, which the defendants were, and hence the proceedings came to a halt. On January 29, 2015, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors quashed the decision to halt and hence the court proceedings started.

During the hearing held on June 1, 2015, the counsel of the defendants insisted upon hearing the cross examination of defendant Eşref Hatipoğlu and, since the request was granted, the next hearing date was set for October 7-8, 2015. However, Hatipoğlu did not appear before the 1st High Penal Court of İzmir on October the 7th. Evidently Eşref Hatipoğlu had come to the court house on September the 18th, had given a statement and left after 15 minutes on grounds of safety of life. During the hearing it was announced that the other defendant, Tünay Yanardağ had died.

Due to irregularity in the interrogation procedure of the defendants, the counsel of the plaintiff’s asked for the recusation of the judge. The request examined by the 2nd High Penal Court of İzmir was rejected. Eşref Hatipoğlu did not appear in court again on the hearing held at the İzmir 1st High Penal Court, on December 24, 2015,  The Court Board decided to dispatch a note to Hatipoğlu to come before the court, and should he not do so, be brought by force; refusing again, however, it requested that Hatipoğlu be arrested.

In the hearing held on March 17, 2016 in the İzmir 1st High Penal Court, one of the defendants, Eşref Hatipoğlu appeared before the court. The request that he be arrested was rejected one more time, while his demand to be excluded from the hearings was accepted.

In the Lice court case held on June 23, 2016, The Southeastern Industrialists and Businessmen Association (GÜNSİAD) administrator Abdurrahman Ayaz, The Chamber of Lice Tradesmen and Artisans Representative Şaban Maltaş and Murat Canpolat and Fesih Ersönmez whose kin had been murdered gave their testimony in court. The lawyers asked that the Aide to the Prime Minister at the time, Deniz Baykal, and the Emergency Region Governor be required to give their testimony in court, in addition to Tayfun Talipoğlu and Mithat Bereket, both journalists who were there following the events at the time. While the panel of judges accepted demand to intervene of Şaban Maltaş, Murat Canpolat and Abdurrahman Ayaz, it left the evaluation of the remaining requests to the next hearing which will be held on Nov 17, 2016.

The November 17, 2016 hearing of the case started with the statements of witness Ethem Özer and those of others present. The request of the attorneys at the former hearing to bring the postal cargo records from Lice, to hear the statements of former Aide to the Prime Minister, Deniz Baykal, Emergency Region Governor at the time, Ünal Erkan and journalists Tayfun Talipoğlu and Mithat Bereket present in the region then, were determined not to be of further help to the court in its decision concerning the case and was thus refused.  Mesut Karçkay and Mesut Karademir’s request to be present in court as intervening parties was accepted, while it was decided that Bahtiyar Aydın’s murder suspect, the already arrested Mehmet Emin Özkan should be ready to give his account via the audio-visual communication system during the next scheduled hearing and that all the documents held within the  Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office be handed over to the court.

During the hearing held on February 16, 2017, plaintiffs Şeref Can Can, İlhami Bayar and witnesses Selma Özkan, Mehmet Hüseyin Baygeldi, Zafer Alak and İbrahim Olu testified in court. Lawyers of the plaintiffs asked that the witnesses who had been refused to be heard during the former hearing, in addition to Şemdin Sakık who had eyewitness information concerning the event also be heard. The lawyers demand for viewing, in addition to hearing of witnesses was refused.

The complainants did not come to the hearing held on May 18, 2017 due to the “refusal of all their requests during the former hearings and the general attitude of the court board”. It was observed that the court board had been reshuffled. Major İhsan Batı, stationed at the Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Regional Command, gave his statement via the audio-visual system. Mehmet Emin Özkan, being held at the Diyarbakır D-type prison related to the murder of Bahtiyar Aydın, connected to court via the audio-visual system; but he was not heard since it was recognized that he could not hear. It was decided that he be heard in Diyarbakır and a statement be written to that effect.

During the last hearing held on October 12, 2017 it was observed that the presiding judge had changed. Witness Tuncay Kırmacı’s statement heard by another court and the General Staff’s response to the written warrant was heard and both were placed in the file. The lawyers present repeated their earlier request and asked for time to examine the documents and to read a recent newspaper interview by Bahtiyar Aydın’s sister Birsen Aydın and that she be heard in court as witness. All the requests of the lawyers’ attendant were refused except that of “examining the documents that had arrived”.

The case was postponed to 14:00 pm on January 30, 2018.

Case Start Date

01.04.2015

Court Name

1st High Penal Court of İzmir

Indictment

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Defendants

Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Regiment commander at the time, Eşref Hatipoğlu and First Lieutenant Tünay Yanardağ

Victims

Bahtiyar Aydın, Yüksel Bayar, Ali Nurettin Soyer, Abdullah Akçakmak, Mizgin Cantürk, Bayram Yıldız, Hüseyin Cantürk, Emine Kıraç, Zana Çakır, Ali Şanlı, Saniye Boğan, Mustafa Çakır, Ali Canpolat, Kudret Ergün, Muhyettin Gülen and Dilbirin Cantürk

Related ECHR Decisions

Case of Ayder and Others v. Turkey