The 14th Istanbul High Criminal Court in the district of Bakırköy ruled to sentence prison guards Selahattin Apaydın and Sami Ergazi as well as deputy warden Fuat Karaosmanoğlu to life-time imprisonment for torturing journalist Engin Çeber to death in 2008.
Prison doctor Yemliha Söylemez also received a sentence of three years, one month and 15 days of imprisonment, while Nihat Kızılkaya received a jail sentence of two years and six months. Kızılkaya was released, however, in view of the time he has already spent behind bars.
The court further sentenced police officers Mehmet Pek and Abdülmuttalip Bozyel to two and a half years in prison three times over on the charge of torture. Specialist Sergeant Murat İşler also received the same sentence.
Murat Çise, Öncay Bozo and Yavuz Uzun received four years and two months in prison three times over.
Engin Çeber's father Ali Tekin and his siblings Şerife Çeber and Erdem Tekin also attended the hearing that started at 11:00 a.m. on Monday.
A commotion ensued prior to the hearing when police officers working at the courthouse began insulting the lawyers. Officials consequently wrote a minute about officer Şuayip Kaptı for cursing and insulting lawyers Günay Dağ and Ömer Kavili.
"A step forward to punish torturers"
Defendant lawyer Barkın Timtik said torture was systemmatic and an instrument of state policy while speaking in the trial, and lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı asserted that the offense in question should be considered as an act of torture and not merely "ill-treatment."
"[The first verdict in 2010] was historic even if it was flawed because it was the first time that wardens who bore responsibility for an incident of torture received a [prison] sentence. The conclusion of this trial will constitute a step forward to punish the perpetrators of torture and others in charge who systemmatically employ it as a policy instrument," lawyer Kozağaçlı said.
The arrested suspects who received a life-time imprisonment sentence during the first trial would all flee abroad if the court decides to release them pending trial, he also said in the hearing.
Plaintiff lawyer Ömer Yeşilyurt, on the other hand, claimed that beating the victim with a sledgehammer for nearly a minute did not constitute an act of torture. Prison guard Apaydın's lawyer Reşat Pek also requested that his client be tried on the charge of causing injury rather than torture, but the court denied his request.
The court then issued its verdict following a recess.
Police officer Aliye Uçak also received five months of imprisonment, but the court decided to suspend that sentence.
The final verdict also represents the first time that officials who engaged in acts of torture did not receive the minimum possible sentence, Çeber family's lawyer Taylan Tanay also said after the hearing.
"Warden Karaosmanoğlu did not participate in the torture sessions. He was merely the superior of those who tortured [Çeber] and failed to stop them when he could. He consequently received a life-time sentence. This verdict has gone quite far, and if authorities follow through with it, then a security office director, for instance, can also receive as hefty a sentence as the police officer who commits the actual torture. This represents a significant step in preventing torture," Tanay said.
Officials took Çeber under custody on Sept. 28, 2008 on the grounds that he had participated in a press meeting and distributed the Yürüyüş magazine. He was tortured incessantly until Oct. 7, 2008 in both the İstinye Şehit Muhsin Bodur Police Department and the Metris Prison.
He passed away at the Şişli Etfal Hospital on Oct. 10, 2008, while expert reports also confirmed that torture was the cause of his death.
A suit was subsequently filed at the Bakırköy 14th High Criminal Court against a total of 60 suspects, including 39 prison guards, three wardens, 13 police officers, four troops and one doctor.
Fuat Karaosmanoğlu, the deputy warden of Metris Prison, and guards Apaydın, Ergazi and Kızılkaya were sentenced to life-time imprisonment on June 1, 2010 on the charge of murder through torture.
Prison guards Yavuz Uzun and Murat Çise and police officers Abdülmuttalip Bozyel and Mehmet Pek received seven and a half years in prison, while officer Aliye Uçak received two and a half years in prison over a variety of charges including torture, intentional injury, negligience and not reporting an offense.
Prison doctor Yemliha Söylemez also received three years and nine months in prison on the charge of forging a fake document.
The Eighth Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, however, overturned that verdict on Sept. 28, 2011. The first hearing after that was scheduled for Feb. 20, 2012, or 16 months afterwards, while the summary judgement took place on Monday. (AS/HK)