Court acquits police officer who killed Kemal Kurkut during 2017 Newroz celebrations, adds to police impunity cases

A court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır has acquitted a police officer in the case into the killing of Kemal Kurkut, a young man who wanted to attend Newroz celebrations in 2017. The ruling added to the long list of police impunity cases in Turkey.

Pictures taken by journalist Abdurrahman Gök show the moment Kemal Kurkut was killed by police in Diyarbakır's Bağlar district.

Duvar English 

A court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Nov. 17 acquitted a police officer tried over killing a young man during the Newroz celebrations in 2017. 

The Diyarbakır Seventh Heavy Penal Court acquitted the policeman, identified only by the initials as Y.Ş., ignoring the footage that shows Kemal Kurkut's killing. 

The 23-year-old university student was killed by police on March 21 in the Bağlar district despite being topless and carrying a knife. Police at the time said that he might have been a suicide bomber - a statement that drew ire since Kurkut was not even wearing a shirt and did not aim his knife at anyone. 

During the 12th hearing of the case on Nov. 17 that Y.Ş. was tried over "murder with eventual intent," the court ruled for the filing of criminal complaints against 72 police officers "in order for the determination of the potential suspect."

While Y.Ş. and his lawyer were not present at the hearing, police took strict security measures in front of the courthouse and the courtroom.

The prosecutor repeated his demand that the police be handed up to nine years in prison, saying that firing on Kurkut was excessive use of force. 

Kurkut couldn't have been carrying explosives based on his outfit and could have been apprehended alive, the prosecutor also said. 

The court, however, dismissed the prosecutor's opinion and acquitted the police officer. 

Commenting on the ruling, Diyarbakır Bar Head Cihan Aydın said that the policy of impunity is ongoing at full speed. 

Former Diyarbakır bar head Mehmet Emin Aktar also slammed the ruling, saying, "Not even a day in prison is given in exchange for killing a Kurd." 

It's common for courts in Turkey to acquit security forces when they commit crimes. 

Kurkut's brother Ercan Kurkut said that he feels "desperate." 

"Believe us that we don't feel well. We are having a hard time breathing," he said. 

Journalist faces up to 20 years in jail

Strikingly, the journalist who recorded the killing, Abdurrahman Gök, faces up to 20 years in jail for "making propaganda of a terrorist organization." 

Police at the time attempted to delete the pictures from Gök's camera to prevent the killing from seen by the public. The pictures were also crucial in refuting authorities' claims that Kemal Kurkut was a suicide bomber.