Case on burning of Kurdish villagers by soldiers dropped due to statute of limitations in Turkey

A Turkish court dropped the case regarding the burning of the Kurdish village of Vartinis in eastern Turkey in 1993 by soldiers due to the statute of limitations. Nine members of the same family, seven of whom were children, died in the blaze.

Nine members of the same family, seven of whom were children, died in the blaze.

Duvar English

A Kırıkkale High Criminal Court ruled to drop the case related to the massacre of nine members of the same family in the Vartinis (Altınova) village in eastern Muş province on Oct. 3, 1993, after soldiers set their houses. 

The court decided to dismiss the case on the grounds of the statute of limitations and argued that two months had passed since 30th anniversary of the incident, according to the Mesopotamia News Agency.

The “only” perpetrator who was found guilty by the Court of Cassation, then District Gendarmerie Regiment Commander Bülent Karaoğlu, could not be caught since 2021. 

The lawyers maintained that the crime in question was a crime against humanity under Article 77 of the Turkish Penal Code, and therefore the statute of limitations could not be applied.

A soldier on Oct.2, 1993, was killed in a clash with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near the village. The soldiers opened fire in the air as they passed through Vartinis after the clash and left the area saying "We will come and burn your village tonight.”

One day after the incident, soldiers came to the town and set fire to the village on the allegation of "aiding the PKK.” The couple Nasır and Eşref Öğüt, along with their seven children, the oldest of whom was 12 and the youngest of whom was only three years old, were killed when their house was set on fire. 

Aysel Öğüt, the only survivor, later filed a criminal complaint about the massacre. The case was initially rejected by the local courts.

She once again filed a complaint in 2003 and this time the prosecutor's office launched an investigation only for the file to wait for another seven years at a military prosecutor's office. 

In 2011, Öğüt's lawyers once again applied to the prosecutor's office and a case was opened against military officials Bülent Karaoğlu, Hanefi Akyıldız, Şerafettin Uz, and Turhan Nurdoğan. All of them were acquitted.

The lawyers took the case to the Court of Cassation in 2016 and a ruling was issued after five years.

After the file was kept pending at the Court of Cassation for five years, the top court reversed the acquittal decision of the local court and stated that Karaoğlu was responsible for the massacre as he gave the order to burn the village. The Chamber also upheld the acquittal verdict of 3 soldiers who were among the perpetrators.

Following the verdict, Kırıkkale High Criminal in 2021 issued an arrest warrant for Karaoğlu yet, he has not been caught since 2021.