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Court acquits police officer charged with killing student during Nevruz celebrations

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A Turkish court has acquitted a police officer who shot a university student to death during Nevruz celebrations in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in 2017.

The 12th hearing in the trial of the police officer, identified only by his initials Y.Ş., was held at the Diyarbakır 7th High Criminal Court on Tuesday. Y.Ş., who was facing three to nine years in prison for causing death by negligence, was acquitted of the charges, while the court ruled for the filing of criminal complaints against 72 police officers in order to identify another possible suspect.

However, an expert report drafted by the privately run National Criminal Bureau revealed last year that Kemal Kurkut, who was also a musician, was deliberately killed by the police officer.

According to the report Kurkut was not killed by a stray bullet but was deliberately shot by Y.Ş. The report claimed slow-motion footage of the shooting analyzed by forensic experts proves the victim was shot from behind when the suspect fired his pistol.

The report also pointed to evidence from the autopsy report in line with the characteristics of the bullet hole in the victim’s body that also showed he was directly targeted.

One of the two officers who were detained on the day of the incident, March 21, 2017, was released after testifying to a prosecutor, while the other, Y.Ş. was freed under judicial supervision by the court at his arraignment.

Lawyers for the Kurkut family criticized the court ruling when it was discovered that the judicial supervision was also lifted in January 2019 on the grounds that the defendant did not pose a flight risk and continued to work as a civil servant.

The court rejected a request for arrest from the family’s lawyers and ruled for a new ballistics and expert report from the Council of Forensic Medicine, a government agency.

Kurkut was studying at Malatya’s İnönü University and traveled to his hometown of Diyarbakır for Nevruz celebrations in 2017. He was staying with his brother.

A bare-chested Kurkut quarreled with police at a checkpoint when he was trying to get into the festival venue, photos taken during the incident showed.

In a statement issued on the day of the incident, the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office said Kurkut told the police, “There’s a bomb in my bag.” The photos show the student was carrying a knife but did not have a bag with him.

Police found poetry books and clothes in Kurkut’s backpack after he was shot on suspicion that he was a suicide bomber.

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