Court rejects request for recusal in Dedeoğulları family massacre case

Making a statement about the trial over the massacre of the Dedeoğulları family in Konya, the HDP has raised concerns that the court has been “systematically rejecting the lawyers’ requests for disclosing the truth.”

The trial over the killing of seven people from the Dedeoğulları family in Konya's Meram on July 30, 2021 continued with its second hearing.

Held by the Konya 4th High Criminal Court, the trial has 10 defendants: Mehmet Altun, Ali Çalık, Ali Keleş, (another) Ali Keleş, Ayşe Keleş, İbrahim Keleş, Lütfi Keleş, Ramazan Çalık, Veli Keleş, Yahya Çalık.

At the second hearing of the case today (February 8), lawyers requested that the rejection of the request for merging the files of two separate trials over the two attacks on the Kurdish family be withdrawn.

'Files should be merged'

As reported by the daily Yeni Yaşam, today's hearing was attended by several lawyers from the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD) Ankara, Diyarbakır and Mersin branches as well as the relatives of the Dedeoğulları family, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Konya provincial and district executives and HDP MPs Abdullah Koç and Ali Kenanoğlu.

Arrested defendant Mehmet Altun attended the hearing via video conferencing on the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS) while five defendants free pending trial were present in the courtroom.

The lawyers of the family took the floor and talked about the rejection of their requests for merging the files of the ongoing court cases regarding the attack on the family on May 12 and the massacre of the family on July 30, 2021. Lawyer Atila Kart said that they expect that the duty not fulfilled by the law enforcement or the prosecutor's office to be fulfilled by court:

"These two files opened on the same day need to be merged. The prosecutor's office committed misconduct in office. We will, of course, take this to the Board of Judges and Prosecutors. We want the rejection of the requests for merging to be withdrawn. Otherwise, we request recusal as it will mean that the court has lost its impartiality and independence."

Lawyer Kart submitted the 12-page petition explaining the reasons for their request for recusal to the court board. Çetin Dedeoğulları also said that he agreed with the lawyers' request for recusal.

Taking the floor afterwards, lawyer Fırat Epözdemir asked how the court board concluded that there is no connection between the two case files without asking for the indictment of the case heard by the Konya 8th Heavy Criminal Court regarding the attack on May 12.

Epözdemir reiterated the request for recusal.

'Stop interfering with the case'

Recessing the hearing for 30 minutes to discuss the request, the court board rejected the request for recusal.

Releasing a statement about the issue, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said, "The efforts to cover up the racist attack that began with the massacre continue during the judicial process as well."

The party has raised concerns that the court board has been "systematically rejecting the lawyers' requests to disclose the truth", underlining that these systematic rejections continued today with the rejection of their requests for recusal: "In response to this, lawyers and the members of the massacred family left the courtroom by protesting the court board."

Speaking after the hearing, HDP MP Abdullah Koç also underlined that the reasons behind the racist massacre are not being investigated.

Referring to the trial over the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and the trial over the killing of Deniz Poyraz in the HDP İzmir office in 2021, Koç has said that this court case is also faced with "serious obstacles to expand the investigation and to reveal the real perpetrators." The MP has also called on the Ministry of Justice to "stop interfering with this case."

What happened?

An armed assailant raided the house of Dedeoğulları family in Konya's Meram in the evening hours on July 30. He shot seven family members to death, set the house on fire and ran away.

Several police and paramedic teams were referred to the scene of the incident upon reports. The dead bodies of Yaşar Dedeoğulları, Barış Dedeoğulları, Serpil Dedeoğulları, Serap Dedeoğulları, İpek Dedeoğulları, Metin Dedeoğulları and Sibel Dedeoğulları were found at home which was first raided by the perpetrator, then set on fire before leaving.

As part of the investigation launched into the attack, 10 people from the Keleş and Altun families and murder suspect Mehmet Altun were arrested.

Along with the assailant, 13 people in total were arrested. But except for Mehmet Altun, all the defendants were released in the following weeks.

In the indictment, a life sentence aggravated seven times has been requested for nine defendants for instigating the crime; Mehmet Altun, the murder suspect, also faces a life sentence aggravated seven times for "premeditated murder with monstrous feelings."

In the trial of 11 people from the Keleş and Çalık families, the hearing has been adjourned until February 8, 2021.

Attack on May 12

Living in the same neighbourhood for 24 years, the Dedeoğulları family was subjected to a racist attack by nearly 60 people on May 12. "We are [ultranationalist] idealists, we will not let you live here," a racist group threatened the family and severely wounded 7 family members, including four women. Of the 7 people arrested after the attack, 5 were released.

Lawyer Abdurrahman Karabulut filed a criminal complaint against the local authorities and provincial and district security directors who had not taken adequate measures to protect the family before the attack and the prosecutor and penal judge of peace who had not responded to the requests for protection on charge of "neglect of duty".