Testimonies from key witnesses are being heard during the second hearing into the murder of Gezi protester Ali İsmail Korkmaz in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri.
The 19-year-old died after spending 38 days in a coma last July, eventually succumbing to wounds he suffered when he was savagely beaten by plainclothes men while participating in a demonstration in Eskişehir on June 2.
During the hearing, one of the witnesses, Semih Berkan Yapıcı, gave a detailed account of the beating while also identifying the suspects, sending Kormaz’s parents into tears.
Yapıcı said he encountered the police officers who beat Korkmaz as he was trying to use side streets to return home in the middle of a police crackdown.
“When Ali İsmail entered the street, a police officer named Hüseyin and another one wearing a gas mask tried to catch him. They snatched Doğukan Bilir [another young student who was beaten during the same day],” said Yapıcı, according to daily Radikal, adding that Korkmaz’s course was eventually halted by employees at a nearby bakery.
“Ali İsmail made toward the shutters [of the bakery]. They tripped him up, he lost his balance and fell down. Then everyone started to hit him, to kick him. They hit him again and again. He hit his head on the pavement. At that moment, his face was engraved in my memory,” he said.
All the assailants started to aim at Korkmaz’s head and the young Gezi victim lost his consciousness as a result. “[One of the suspects] started to hit Ali İsmail again after he regained consciousness. But Ali found an opportunity to run. Police were shouting after him to ‘stop him.’ Then he disappeared,’ he said.
The eight murder suspects include four police officers, who denied administrating the fatal beating during an emotive the first hearing in February.
After reactions from the suspects, Yapıcı said he had escaped the beating by walking behind two elder people. “They thought I was a relative, that’s how I was able to walk away from there,” he said.
Lawyers said a dozen key witnesses were expected to give testimony during May 12’s hearing.
“New evidence laid down in the expert report has disproved police testimonies,” Gürkan Korkmaz, the victim’s elder brother as well as a lawyer in the case, told Agence France-Presse. “We are demanding the immediate arrest of the suspects pending trial,” he said.
Korkmaz’s parents briefly left the courtroom when footage showing the fatal beating was screened by lawyers.
The footage had triggered outrage across the country, while many global organizations denounced the impunity with which Turkish police officers are permitted to act.
Berkin’s father shows solidarity
Ali İsmail Korkmaz’s parents, Emel and Şahap Korkmaz, entered the courtroom holding their son’s pictures in their hands ahead of the hearing.
“I wonder what the suspects told their children when they asked them, ‘Where have you been?’ Did they say, ‘We murdered a 19-year-old kid, that’s why we are in jail’? I really wonder, I came here to ask this,” Emel Korkmaz told journalists as she was entering the courthouse.
Sami Elvan, the father of Berkin Elvan, the latest victim of the Gezi protests who died in March after spending around nine months in a coma, as well as the brother of Ethem Sarısülük, who was shot point-blank by a police officer during Gezi protests in Ankara, also attended the hearing in support of the Korkmaz family.
Around one thousand activists have gathered in front of the courthouse, carrying banners calling for justice for Korkmaz and all other Gezi victims.
Extraordinary security measures were taken once again in front of the courthouse, with 1,900 officers and four water cannon trucks (TOMA) deployed to the area. A helicopter has also been dispatched to patrol the vicinity.
The trial has drawn huge attention as many believe shedding light on Korkmaz’s murder may also have an effect on several other cases regarding the deaths of Gezi victims, including the investigation into Elvan’s death.
The case was moved to the Central Anatolian town from Eskişehir, where the murder was committed, for alleged security reasons.
Further controversy erupted when the case was divided into four, as the main case was transferred far from Eskişehir, where Korkmaz was studying, strengthening the perception that the main trial was being sent to a conservative city in an effort to prevent protests.
Some of the witnesses were set to testify in Eskişehir and Ankara, while the family of Korkmaz was to testify in their hometown of Hatay.