Top Turkish court finds fine given to police who killed Gezi protestor Ethem Sarısülük ‘fair’

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) has ruled that the mere 15,200 lira judicial fine given to the police officer who killed Gezi Park protestor Ethem Sarısülük was "proportionate." Six judges, including AYM head Zühtü Arslan, submitted a dissenting opinion stating that the decision will create impunity.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) has ruled on the application regarding the death of Ethem Sarısülük, who was shot at close range by police officer Ahmet Şahbaz on June 1, 2013 in Ankara during the Gezi Park protests, according to reporting by daily Birgün. 

The AYM decided by a majority of votes that Sarısülük's right to life was not violated on procedural grounds. Six judges submitted a dissenting opinion, including AYM head Zühtü Arslan.

A Turkish court initially sentenced policeman Şahbaz to 7 years and 9 months, which was later reversed by the Court of Cassation in 2015. In a retrial of the case, another court sentenced Şahbaz to 1 year and 4 months for exceeding the limits of self-defense by negligence, which was commuted to a judicial fine of 10,100 Turkish liras. 

Upon the reversal of the sentence again by the Court of Cassation, Şahbaz's imprisonment was increased to 2 years and 1 month, which was this time commuted to a judicial fine of 15,200 liras in 2018. Considering that Şahbaz was imprisoned for 14 months, the court ruled that there was no need to pay the fine.

After the decision, Sarısülük family’s lawyer applied to the AYM, saying that Sarısülük’s right to life had been violated.

The AYM ruled that the judicial fine imposed on the policeman was "proportionate." “It was concluded that the discretion of the judicial authorities regarding the type and amount of the punishment should be respected,” the decision said.

On the other hand, six judges submitted a dissenting opinion, including AYM’s head Zühtü Arslan. Arslan noted that the right to life of Sarısülük has been violated.

“It is impossible to say that the judicial fine imposed on the accused is sufficient to the result. Because, the result is the death of a person's life. The punishment of such a severe result with a judicial fine close to the lower limit creates a situation of impunity,” Arslan said in his decision. 

Initially centered in Istanbul, the Gezi Park protests spread all over Turkey starting from June 1, 2013. Millions of people at the time took to the streets to raise their voices against police brutality and government policies. It turned into the largest wave of protests against the government in Turkish history.

The 26-year-old Sarısülük was the third protester to be killed by police during the protests.