A Turkish court has sentenced Kıvanç Ağaoğlu to 16 years and 8 months in prison for killing Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, while both were doing their compulsory military service, Turkey's Armenian bi-weekly Agos newspaper reported on Jan. 13.
The case concerns the death of Balıkçı on April 24, 2011, the remembrance day of the Armenian Genocide. Balıkçı had only 20 days left to complete his service in the Kozluk district of the southeastern province of Batman, when he was shot dead by Ağaoğlu, a fellow conscript.
At the end of an initial trial process undertaken by a military court, Ağaoğlu was sentenced to 4 years and 5 months in prison on charges of “involuntary manslaughter” in 2013. The judge called it an “accident.”
But the Balıkçı family appealed the case, based on the testimony of their son's fiancee who stated that Sevag was subjected to psychological pressure at the military compound. His fiancee was told by Sevag through telephone conversations with him that he feared for his life because a certain military serviceman threatened him by saying, "If war were to happen with Armenia, you would be the first person I would kill." A analysis undertaken by the Balıkçı family's lawyer into Ağaoğlu's background also revealed that the defendant was an ultra-nationalist.
Later, the Military Supreme Court has overturned the ruling and sent the case for reconsideration. After the failed coup attempt July 2016, military courts were suspended in Turkey and the case was sent to the Kozluk Criminal Court of First Instance of Batman where the retrial started on Feb. 8, 2018.
According to the verdict of the Kozluk Criminal Court of First Instance, Ağaoğlu was sentenced to 16 years and 8 months in prison on charges of “voluntary manslaughter with eventual intent.” Following the announcement of the verdict, Ağaoğlu was arrested.
A witness who was also serving in the military at the time, Halil Ekşi, initially said in his testimony that Ağaoğlu had deliberately killed Balıkçı, pointing his weapon at the victim just before pulling the trigger, but then altered his statement. He said at a later hearing that the incident was an accident while Balıkçı and Ağaoğlu were “joking around.”
Upon the Balıkçı family's application, Ekşi once again gave his testimony, saying that he was previously forced to lie due to being “under pressure” by Ağaoğlu's family. He said that he wanted to continue with his original testimony.
This time, an investigation was launched into Ekşi on charges of “giving false testimony.” In 2015, a court sentenced Ekşi to 2 years and 1 month in jail for “committing perjury” and Kıvanç Ağaoğlu's uncle Bület Kaya to 2 years and 13 months in jail for “instigating someone into committing perjury more than once.”