Turkey’s court frees officer convicted over 2013 protests
A Turkish police officer who shot dead an unarmed protester during an anti-government demonstration more than two years ago has been released from prison.
A court in the Turkish capital city of Ankara on Thursday ordered the release of Ahmet Şahbaz, the police officer who shot Ethem Sarısülük, 26, during a protest rally against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2013, the Turkish Hürriyet Daily reported on Friday.
Uğur Ceylan, the police officer’s lawyer, has also confirmed that his client walked out of jail a free man after court ordered his release. “Everything is as it should be. The court ruled to release [Şahbaz] on the grounds that the evidence had been destroyed.”
The officer had been sentenced to seven years, nine months and 10 days in prison for shooting the protester at point-blank range.
Reacting to developments, Kazım Bayraktar, the victim’s lawyer, said the court decision would continue to encourage police brutality and violence against citizens.
The victim was shot in the head by the officer in Ankara’s Güven Park on June 1, 2013 during nationwide protest rallies that were gripping Turkey at the time.
Anti-government protests started in Turkey in mid-2013, when Turkish police broke up a sit-in held at Istanbul’s Taksim Square against a proposal to demolish Gezi Park, which is said to be one of the few green spots in the city.
The violence turned into nationwide demonstrations against the ruling party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who was the prime minister at the time and is the president now – with police using water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets against the demonstrators.
The nationwide anti-government demonstrations reportedly left several people dead and thousands injured.