Sergeant Nuh Mete Damgacı from the Riot Forces Branch stands accused of maltreatment and torture of Öztürk Aladağ and Naciye Kaplan in two nights around Labour Day on 1 May 2009. At the Thursday court hearing (2 December), Damgacı stated that he was actually trying to help the demonstrators.
The trial is heard at the Beyoğlu (Istanbul) 12th High Criminal Court. Damgacı claimed in the first hearing, "When I saw the lady limping, I took her arm. I think she had difficulties in breathing due to the gas bombs. I held her chin and lifted her head in order to help her breathe".
The case is significant because it was decided to prosecute both the high-rank officials and their subordinates. "The public officials in the superior positions failed to intervene sufficiently although they anticipated torture to be applied in the course of the investigation which was carried out under their surveillance. This might indicate that torture was applied by implicit consent", it was said.
One of the suspects recognized by Kaplan and Akdağ is Gökhan Özsavaş, then Deputy Chief of Police and Head of the Istanbul Riot Forces Branch. Özsavaş stated in his defence speech that he did not enter the Beyoğlu police building at the time of the incident. He is currently responsible for the Beyoğlu district as Deputy Provincial Chief of Police.
It was videotaped how complainant Aladağ was hassled and beaten by the police in the Tarlabaşı quarter. Aladağ filed his complaint upon the video footage and a medical report.
Kaplan complained based on pictures published in the papers that show her being dragged along by police officers. Both files were merged on 13 May 2010. The police said that they did not have any official records about taking either of the complainants into custody.
The two young people recognized police officers who were on duty in the region at the time.
Absent police officers will be subpoenaed
Defendant Ayhan Baştürk, one of the indicted police officers, claimed that he was not involved in the incident and requested the footage showing the street where he was on duty that day recorded by MOSEBE (cameras in public).
Photographs taken from the MOSEBE footage apparently only show the face of defendant Damgacı when he was linking arms with complainant Kaplan.
The other suspects stated that they rejected the identification by the complainants and that they had not been involved in the incident. Defendant Ayhan Aktaş had recorded that he watched the Labour Day demonstrations from a window of the Beyoğlu District Police Station.
Indicted police officers Kemak Güney and Veli Tarım did not attend the hearing.
The court decided to adjourn the hearing to 17 February. In the meantime, the absent defendants will be subpoenaed and the request of the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD) for joint plaintiff status will be evaluated by the court. A writ will be issued to the Istanbul Police Directorate in order to confirm the identities of the riot force police officers who were on duty that day. Moreover, the relevant footage of 1 May 2009 will be investigated.
The indictment seeks prison terms of up to 26 years for the defendants on charges of "torture" and "deprivation of personal liberty".
Celal Doğan read out a press release in front of the courthouse on behalf of the Democratic Rights Federation. He said, "This show trial is not going to yield any results. We do not trust the judiciary that is a toy in the hands of the bosses and chiefs. We do not believe in its independence because the state has committed and concealed crimes against the people for ten years".
Defendant Özsavaş avoided the journalists in front of the courthouse and left through the rear exit where a car was waiting for him. (BT/EÜ/VK)