"Soldiers can also be terrorists"
Two third party lawyers in the case, Murat Timur and Tahir Elci, are worried that their attempts to "unmask at least a small part of an illegal organisation" are being thwarted. .The Supreme Court of Appeals has argued that accusing the soldiers of the crimes in question was "beyond imagination, based on pure speculation".LawyerTimur considers this evaluation "not legal, but political" and argues that officer status does not prove innocence.
Military Court responsible?
Because the suspects were on anti-terrorist duty at the time of the bombing, the Court of Appeals has called for the trial to referred to a military court. Timur argues, however, that "throwing bombs at a citizen's shop is not a military activity". His colleague Elci attacks the decision as "insincere", adding that the crime was committed in a civilian domain, and that the aggrieved party was civilian, too.
Fair Trial Impossible
The lawyers fear that a fair trial and effective investigation of the case would be hampered. The Chief of the Armed Forces' General Staff, General Büyükanit, is responsible for appointing military judges and other personnel issues. In the period of the initial trial, Büyükanit had commented on one of the suspects, "I know him, he is a good kid". He followed this with a press briefing on 12 April, where he denounced the case as an "unprecedented assasination of justice". Lawyers Timur and Elci were thus not surprised at the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeals, and commented that it would be "naive" to expect a fair trial in a military court. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) denounces military trials of civilians as a matter of course, and Elci argues that the same should be true when the aggrieved party is civilian: "It is unimaginable that military trials on civilians whose rights have been violated by members of the armed forces in a civilian domain will yield a fair result.
Appeal to the ECHR
Elci believes that the illegal organisation goes far beyond the three people arrested, and the lawyers have filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeals. Prosecutor Ferhat Sarikaya was debarred from practising as a lawyer since he attempted to get to the bottom of the case, and the court did not consider his indictment fully. Thus, the lawyers are also considering appealing to the EHCR.
According to retired military judge Ümit Kardas, one of the problems in the Semdinli trial is Article 145 of the Turkish Constitution. It has been in use since 1961 and never revised. The article allows Turkish military courts to deal with crimes in the military as well as the civilian domain. (TK/EK/AG)