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Policeman sentenced to 30 months in prison for 2014 killing of man at İstanbul cemevi

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A Turkish court that retried a police officer for the 2014 murder of a man at an Alevi house of worship in İstanbul has sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter, the Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported on Friday.

Uğur Kurt, a 34-year-old janitor and father of one, was hit by a stray bullet fired by policeman Sezgin Korkmaz as he was attending the funeral of a relative in the Okmeydanı Cemevi on May 14, 2014.

The incident, which shocked Turkey’s Alevi community, took place as riot police intervened against demonstrators who were in the area to protest the murder of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who was struck in the head with a tear gas canister fired by a police officer during the anti-government Gezi Park protests in İstanbul in 2013 and lost his life following a 269-day coma.

Korkmaz was initially given 20 months in prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter, which was subsequently converted to a TL 12,100 ($386) administrative fine.

Kurt’s wife Narin Kurt then took the case to the Constitutional Court, claiming that there was a violation of the right to life and a lack of an effective criminal investigation into her husband’s death.

In its ruling dated March 2023, the top court stated that the administrative fine was not an adequate and deterrent measure for preventing similar rights violations. The court ordered the government to pay TL 90,000 ($2,871) in non-pecuniary damages to Narin Kurt and ruled that the case file be sent back to the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court for retrial.

Based on Turkey’s Law on the Execution of Sentences, Korkmaz is expected to spend only one to three days in prison due to the short length of his sentence.

Alevis, who are estimated to account for 10 percent of Turkey’s population of around 85 million, are the second-largest Islamic sect in Turkey, with Sunni Hanafi Islam the largest. They have been fighting for years for the official recognition of their faith.

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