Turkish Police Officer That Shot Dead 23-Year-Old Kurd Walks Free While Photographer Who Captured The Killing Faces 20 Years

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Turkish Police Officer That Shot Dead 23-Year-Old Kurd Walks Free While Photographer Who Captured The Killing Faces 20 Years

Photo: Kemal Kurkut, a 23-year-old Turkish university student, is shot dead by police in this series of photos taken in Diyarbakir by photojournalist Abdulrahman Gok, who is on trial and faces a 20-year sentence for taking them. Photo by Abdulrahman Gok

The Turkish police-officer who shot dead a young Kurdish man has walked free from court after legal proceedings lasting 4 years. The killing of 23-year-old Kemal Kurkut was captured by a photographer who is now himself facing charges. Abdulrahman Gok captured the photographs of the shooting in the town of Diyarbakir in 2017 and now Turkish prosecutors are demanding he is jailed for 20 years for releasing them to the public.

The shooting happened during the Kurdish celebration of Newroz in which Kurds celebrate their culture and the coming of Spring. Kurkut was shot after he attempted to pass a police checkpoint to a city-square. He lifted up his shirt to show that he was unarmed but was gunned down by the law-enforcement official.

The Newroz that Kurkut attended was the first that had been legally permitted since the attempted coup against the Turkish government in 2016. Eye-witnesses say that he was harassed by the police and became seriously upset and frustrated.

A lawyer for Kurkut's family says that if Gok had not captured the photographs, then the Turkish authorities would have covered up the circumstances surrounding the killing. Before Gok released his photographs, Turkish state security forces had already claimed that they had 'eliminated a potential suicide bomber. Gok was apprehended at the scene and video evidence he had recorded was destroyed by the police. He was, however, able to hide the memory card with the now published photographs on them.

An attorney for Kurkut's family said of the incident:

"It is a crime to destroy evidence. If government officials fail to disclose all the documents to the courts, the fines are even higher. The evidence here is abundant and with Gok's photos, it is public. But we are still trying to prove Kemal was murdered."

Kurkut had been involved in the Gezi uprising protests in 2014 in which many Turkish citizens, including Kurds, protested against the authoritarian Turkish government and demanded an expansion of human-rights laws in the country. Protestors occupied Gezi Square in Ankara for a number of days before they were brutally suppressed.

Kurkut’s brother, Ercan Kurkut, told Al-Monitor:

"We lost our dad when Kemal was only 6 years old. As a family, we centred our love and affection on our 'delalê male' [a Kurdish term of endearment for the youngest of the family meaning source of joy]. Kemal was 19 years old during the Gezi uprising. When he heard the piano recitals at Gezi Park, he decided to go back to college to pursue his passion, music. Gezi was the also first occasion when Kemal heard the cops asking people, 'Where are the Kurds?"

Kurdish people have long been discriminated against in Turkish society and many of them living in the south-east of the country have long fought for their own separate nation.

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Thinking Humanity: Turkish Police Officer That Shot Dead 23-Year-Old Kurd Walks Free While Photographer Who Captured The Killing Faces 20 Years
Turkish Police Officer That Shot Dead 23-Year-Old Kurd Walks Free While Photographer Who Captured The Killing Faces 20 Years
The Turkish police-officer who shot dead a young Kurdish man has walked free from court after legal proceedings lasting 4 years. The killing of 23-yea
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