In landmark case, police officer who murdered Syrian teenager sentenced to 25 years in prison

The police officer who murdered 17-year-old Ali al-Hemdan in Adana has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for “deliberate killing.” Lawyers say that this is the first time a police officer has been convicted of “deliberate killing” in Turkey as a result of firing warning shots. 

Ali al-Hamdan was killed by a police officer in the Seyhan district of Adana last year.

Duvar English

The police officer who shot and killed a 17-year-old teenager in Turkey's southern province of Adana in April 2020 has been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for “deliberate killing,” media outlets reported on Dec. 21. This is a landmark case - lawyers for the killed Ali al-Hemdan’s family say this is the first time a police officer has been convicted of such a charge as a result of firing warning shots. 

On April 28, 2020, lawyers for the police officer identified only as “F.K.” in court documents claim that the officer was in “hot pursuit” of Hemdan when his “foot slipped” and he accidentally fired at the teenager. However, the footage shown in court by the prosecution counters this claim. Video shows F.K. taking heavy, intentional steps towards Hemdan as he faces him and walks slowly backward. F.K. then removes his gun from his holster, aims at Hemdan, and fires. 

Witnesses further stated that at no point did they see the officer’s foot slip. The evidence further showed that the bullet was fired directly at Hemdan, countering the “bullet ricocheting” and “accidental misfire” theories laid out in the police criminology report. 

Lawyers representing the Hemdan family and several human rights organizations were calling for a life sentence for the police officer. Rivdan Şahin, one of the lawyers representing the family, thinks that the video sentence should have led to a longer sentence. 

“He stopped and killed him. It can clearly be seen that he was murdered. Aggravated life imprisonment should have been given,” he said.

In his defense, the police officer said that he “regretted” the killing and did not have the intention to kill. His lawyers further argued that as a police officer he had the authority to use a gun and demanded his acquittal.

The court initially convicted officer F.K. of deliberate killing and approved the life sentence. After a recess, however, they reduced the sentence to 25 years.

Speaking outside of Adana High Criminal Court 9, the representative for the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD) and the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), attorney Yasemin Dora Şeker, said that the investigation carried out by iHD into Hemdan’s death should have been grounds for a life sentence.

“The decision made today is positive, although insufficient. A life sentence was given, they should not have decreased it. You can very clearly see what happened in the camera recordings,” she said.

However, lawyers also indicated that this was a landmark decision and would set a precedent for the police killing of civilians in Turkey. Lawyer Tugay Bey pointed to the fact that many people in Turkey have been killed in such instances when they were told to stop by police, but that this was the first time an officer had been convicted. 

“This decision means that the police should be more careful when using weapons,” he said. “We think that this will have a deterrent effect on officers’ violations of human rights when stopping suspects.”