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Court finds Interior Ministry culpable in killing of Kurdish girl in SE Turkey

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A Turkish court has found the country’s Interior Ministry culpable in the killing of a 12-year-old Kurdish girl in southeastern Diyarbakır province in 2009 by unexploded military ammunition and ordered that a fine of TL 283,000 ($37,000) be paid to the family by the ministry, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The ruling was made by the Diyarbakır 2nd Administrative Court.

Ceylan Önkol was killed in the Hambaz neighborhood of Lice while she was tending sheep on Sept. 28, 2009. No state official has stood trial in relation to the death of the Kurdish girl, and the family as well as human rights groups in the region said the incident was not thoroughly investigated.

After the Önkol family filed a lawsuit against the state for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages they sustained over their daughter’s death, the court ruled in 2015 that TL 28,208 lira ($12,000 at the time) be paid to the family in pecuniary damages but did not give a decision for the non-pecuniary damages. The family then appealed the decision.

Following a new proceeding, the court found the Interior Ministry 90 percent at fault for not taking the necessary measures to ensure the security of an area that was frequently used by villagers to tend to their animals and by children as a playground. The court said the existence of an unexploded ammunition in an area close to a residential neighborhood shows that the ministry was at fault and did not carry out its duties properly.

Ceylan’s death at the time prompted national outrage, putting the impunity of the state under the spotlight, particularly in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern regions. The young girl’s mother had said they had to endure giving over three hours of testimony with the body of her daughter beside them at a gendarmerie post near the scene of her death.

Önkol’s body was left at the scene for six hours because a Lice prosecutor refused to go to the area out of security concerns. The prosecutor went to the area where Önkol was killed three days after the tragedy.

The Turkish military refused to acknowledge any responsibility in the death of Önkol, and a brigadier general from the General Staff at the time pointed the finger at the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is also active in the region, as being responsible for the girl’s death.

The brigadier general also described the efforts to link Önkol’s death with the Turkish military as part of “concerted, asymmetric, comprehensive propaganda warfare” against the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

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