The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court decided to drop procedures of the Sivas Massacre trial in line with the prosecutor's demand to apply the statute of limitation. The final hearing of the trial related to the Sivas Massacre that left 35 people dead in 1993 was held on Tuesday (13 March).
The Sivas massacre in central Anatolia was an attack against Alevi intellectuals and artists. 35 people burned to death and two assailants died when the Madimak Hotel in Sivas was set on fire on 2 July 1993.
The trialswould have continued if the Sivas Massacre would have been accepted as a crime against humanity.
At the hearing on 6 December 2011, Prosecutor Hakan Yüksel put forward that after 15 years the statute of limitation had been reached for fugitive defendants Şevket Erdoğan, Köksal Koçak, İhsan Çakmak, Hakan Karaca, Yılmaz Bağ and Necmi Karaömeroğlu who stood accused of "participating in the attempt to change the constitutional order by force". With today's decision, any punishment of the defendants was rendered impossible.
Lawyers: Crime against humanity, statute of limitations cannot be applied
The plaintiff lawyers had demanded to handle the Sivas Massacre as a crime against humanity. Lawyer Şanal Saruhan stated that the statute of limitations could not be applied to the case in the scope of a crime against humanity.
Lawyer Mehdi Bektaş reiterated the same demand with regard to Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Lawyer Kazım Genç reminded verdicts given related to crimes against humanity and that it was a requirement of the jurisprudence to take these rulings into consideration.
Lawyer Süleyman Ateş introduced himself as the nephew of Sehergül Ateş who died at the Madımak hotel in the course of the massacre. He urged the court, "Dismiss the request for the statute of limitation for the sake of the relief of the heart of sensitive people who have lost a relative and have been waiting for justice for 19 years".
Outraged reactions outside the courthouse
Many people gathered in front of the courthouse upon the call of the Pır Sultan Culture and Solidarity Association. They were outraged about the court decision. Members of political parties, non-governmental organizations and trade unions carried photographs of the victims of the Sivas massacre and a banner reading "We did not make the massacre be forgotten and we will not forget". The group chanted slogans like "No to statute of limitation, we want justice" and "The light of Sivas will not go out".
The Sivas trial
124 people were arrested in the scope of the Sivas Massacre. During a seven-year trial period, 33 people received a death sentence and 85 defendants were handed down prison sentences of between 2 and 15 years.
37 defendants were acquitted. All death sentences were converted into aggravated life sentences.
In November 2004, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court released nine convicts according to the new Turkish Criminal Law who had previously been sentenced to imprisonment of 7.5 years each under allegations of "attempting to change the constitutional order by force".
Another three convicts of the Sivas trial were released before by benefiting from provisions of the Turkish Criminal Law applied in their favour.