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Turkey18 April 2006

Left-wing newspaper reporter Ilyas Aktas dies from gunshot injuries

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its condolences to the family of Ilyas Aktas, who died on 14 April from the gunshot injuries he received on 30 March in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir during a demonstration in support of 14 Kurdish rebels killed a few days earlier by the Turkish army. Doctors had declared him to be brain dead on 9 April.

The press freedom organisation reiterated its call to the Turkish authorities to shed light on the circumstances of his death. Aktas was a young journalist who worked for no pay for the far-left fortnightly Devrimci Demokrasi.

Fellow contributors to the newspaper and members of far-left organisations were not allowed to attend his burial on 15 April in Kirkpinar, a village near Diyarbakir.

12 April 2006

Journalist brain-dead from gunshot wound received when police fired on demonstrators

Reporters Without Borders voiced shock today at the news that Ilyas Aktas, a young, unpaid journalist with the far-left fortnightly Devrimci Demokrasi (Revolutionary Democracy), has been declared brain-dead by the doctors who have been treating him for the gunshot wound he received on 30 March in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Aktas, who had been working as the newspaper’s correspondent in the region for two months, was shot while covering a demonstration in support of 14 Kurdish rebels who had been killed a few days earlier by Turkish troops. The newspaper’s editor, Erdal Guler, said witnesses told him Aktas was hit when police opened fire on the crowd of demonstrators.

Guler has issued two releases about Aktas’s steadily deteriorating condition since the shooting. Doctors told the family on 9 April that he was now in an irreversible coma, in other words, that he was brain-dead.

“We are extremely shocked by this act of violence and we express our deep sadness to the victim’s family,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We encourage the family to file a complaint so that an investigation can determine as quickly as possible the exact responsibility of the security forces in Aktas’s clinical death. The authorities must shed light on this case, in which it is hard to establish what happened because of the confusion surrounding it.”

Members of the Devrimci Demokrasi staff told Reporters Without Borders that Aktas was threatened by the police on 29 March, a day before the shooting, as he was helping a child who had been shot during a demonstration. A policeman allegedly told him: “We know you. Take care. You will see.” The newspaper said in one of its statements that the family had accused doctors of neglecting Aktas and of leaving him unattended on a stretcher for 24 hours.

Violence broke out on 28 March in Diyarbakir, the largest city in this mainly Kurdish area, where there have been repeated protests since 14 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK/Kongra-Gel) - the former PKK - were killed by the army. Twelve people were killed in the rioting, which then spread to Istanbul. Three more people were killed in Istanbul when masked pro-PKK demonstrators threw a Molotov cocktail at a bus. Rumours have meanwhile circulated of the Turkish army using chemical weapons in its operations.

Cameraman Sakir Uygar of the pro-Kurdish news agency Diha also sustained a gunshot wound during the same 30 March demonstration in Diyarbakir that Aktas attended. He suffered tibia and fibula fractures and had to undergo an operation in which doctors installed a plate. In the course of the disturbances, demonstrators threw stones at the headquarters of the newspaper Batman in the nearby city of Batman, breaking windows.

Metin Göktepe, a photographer with the far-left daily Evrensel, was arrested by anti-riot police for “talking too much” at a roadblock near Istanbul on 8 January 1996 as he was returning from the funeral of two political prisoners killed in jail. The police beat him badly several times and then left him, without getting him any treatment for his injuries, from which he died later that day.

A total of 48 police officers were charged in the course of an interior ministry investigation into the case. At least 11 of them were suspected of being directly involved in Göktepe’s death. The trial last several years. On 20 January 2000, the supreme court upheld sentences of seven and a half years for five policemen convicted of “involuntary homicide.”

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