Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used his presidential power to pardon a man who was given an aggravated life sentence due to his role in the killing of 35 people in the central province of Sivas in 1993, according to Turkish media reports.
A decision concerning the pardon of 86-year-old Ahmet Turan Kılıç for reasons of health was published in the Official Gazette. Presidents have the authority to pardon convicts due to advanced age or health problems, according to 104th article of the Turkish Constitution.
On July 2, 1993, an angry mob torched the Madımak Hotel in Sivas, killing 35 people, mostly artists and scholars of the Alevi sect, who were there to attend a conference hosted by the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD), an Alevi organization.
A group of radical Islamists, having been provoked by several local political leaders, gathered in front of the hotel following Friday prayer and accused conference participants of being infidels.
Thirty-three conference attendees, two hotel staff members and two protesters died in the fire.
Kılıç was given the death penalty before the abolishment of capital punishment in Turkey in 2002, when his sentence was reduced to aggravated life. He walked out of the prison a free man on Friday.
At a time when elderly people and pregnant women or women who have just given birth are jailed on a nearly daily basis as part of a government-led crackdown on the Gülen movement, Erdoğan’s pardoning a man who played a role in one of the most tragic incidents in the near history of Turkey shocked many.
Erdoğan’s government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.
Following the coup attempt, Erdoğan’s government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 130,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 30,000 others, including 11,000 women, are still in jail, and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.
Around 800 children are accompanying their mothers in Turkey’s jails.