Saturday Mothers seek justice for Hasan Ocak murdered under custody in 1995

Saturday Mothers have sought justice for Hasan Ocak, who was murdered under police custody back in 1995, in their 991st vigil held at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square. The group has been convening for a sit-in protest each Saturday since 1995, demanding the fate of their relatives who disappeared under custody.

Ferhat Yaşar / Gazete Duvar

Saturday Mothers on March 23 demanded justice and asked for the perpetrators of Hasan Ocak, who was murdered in custody in 1995, during their 991st vigil held at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square. 

The group has been convening for a sit-in protest each Saturday since 1995, demanding the fate of their relatives who disappeared under custody.

This week’s vigil saw the attendance of Hasan Ocak’s daughter Maside Ocak, who said she is at the vigil on behalf of their mother Emine Ocak due to her illness.

Turning to the Galatasaray Square, which was blocked by police barriers, Maside Ocak said, “Be sure that we have never given up on you, we have never given up on our square where we meet you, and we will not give up. We will not give up on you and our square, no matter where we are, until the day when the fate of each of you is announced,” referring to the relatives who disappeared under custody in the 1990s.

Then Lawyer Eren Keskin read this week’s statement, which is dedicated to Hasan Ocak.

Keskin said they are in the square, demanding justice at a time when “the culture of impunity has become so severe.”

“Hasan Ocak, 30, was a teacher waiting to be appointed. He was running a tea shop in Beyazıt, Istanbul. On March 21, 1995, he left his workplace in the afternoon. He called his mother on the phone and said, ‘I will bring fish, don't prepare dinner for the evening.’ However, Hasan did not go back to his house in Avcılar district that evening or ever after,” Keskin said.

Keskin said Ocak’s family knew he was detained, but the security forces were denying it. “However, two detainees at the Istanbul Security Directorate said that they had seen Hasan at the department and two others said that they had read Hasan's name on the fingerprint list at the police station. Another witness, who was detained for Newroz celebration, said that they heard police officers talking amongst themselves, saying 'Hasan Ocak has been brought in'.” 

“After 58 days of persistent search, Hasan's body, bearing heavy torture marks, was finally found in Altınşehir Cemetery of the Unknowns, where he was buried as an 'unknown person',” Keskin stated and added that, according to the crime scene report, Hasan had no identification card, no belt, no watch, no shoelaces and had ink stains on his fingers, which showed “he had been subjected to routine procedures for detainees.”

“Everything was so clear that Algan Hacaloğlu, then Minister of State for Human Rights, apologized to the Ocak family and the public, saying, based on his research, ‘They took Ocak into custody to make him talk, and after the torture and beatings they inflicted there, they dumped him in Beykoz, murdered.’ However, all the family's appeals (in the judiciary) were unsuccessful,” Keskin said.

Accordingly, the European Court of Human Rights found in 2004 that that there had not been an effective investigation regarding Hasan Ocak’s disappearance and death, and ruled Turkey in violation, “but the case has not even reached the prosecution stage in domestic law.”

“In our 991st week, we once again call on the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Justice to fulfill their legal obligations in the Hasan Ocak investigation, which has been dragging on for 29 years. No matter how many years pass; we will not stop demanding justice for Hasan Ocak, for all our disappeared, and reminding the state that it must act within universal legal norms,” Keskin concluded.

Saturday Mothers have been demanding the fates of their loved ones in weekly protests since 1995.

Police routinely intervened in the peaceful protests of the group for the last five years, until Interior Minister Yerlikaya acknowledged the group was victimized by the police on Nov. 2023. The Constitutional Court also found rights violations in the ban on the protests imposed by the Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office.

(English version by Alperen Şen)