Turkey’s top appeals court has upheld a prison sentence of 16 years, eight months handed down to Kıvanç Ağaoğlu, who shot a Turkish soldier of Armenian descent to death in southeastern Turkey in 2011, when both were doing their compulsory military service, the Sözcü daily reported on Thursday.
The ruling was made by the 1st Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Sevag Balıkçı was finishing his military service in the southeastern province of Batman. On April 24, at age 25, he was shot dead by Ağaoğlu, a fellow conscript.
April 24 is the date on which Armenians commemorate the darkest moment in their history, when they began to be rounded up in a crumbling Ottoman Empire and were deported or killed.
Ağaoğlu was tried by a military court after the tragedy. The judge called it an accident, sentencing him to four years in prison in 2013. But Balıkçı’s family was convinced that it was an intentional act by a Turkish nationalist, timed for maximum effect. The family appealed the verdict.
Following the abolishment of military courts in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016, Ağaoğlu’s trial started in a civilian court in February 2018. A court in the Kozluk district of Batman, where Balıkçı was killed, handed down the 16 year, eight month sentence to Ağaoğlu on charges of manslaughter.
Armenia says 1.5 million people were systematically murdered during the final days of the Ottoman Empire, calling it “genocide.”
Turkey fiercely rejects the label, insisting far fewer died — many of starvation or disease — and that the deaths of Turks have been ignored.
“The genocide was being commemorated and the killer wanted to intimidate people through my son,”
Sevag’s mother told BBC in an interview in 2015, “An Armenian had to die on that day — and Sevag was available.”