First arrest warrant in the Vartinis Massacre case 28 years later

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  • 13:21 21 September 2021
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ANKARA - Muş Bar Association Chair lawyer Karaçelik: “We cannot say that justice has been fully served for the aggrieved party, but the ruling of arrest is still good news, considering that even a detention warrant is not issued in such grave cases.”

In the retrial over the Vartinis Massacre, the Kırıkkale 1st Heavy Penal Court has ruled that Bülent Karaoğlu, the then Hasköy Gendarmerie Commander and the only defendant of the case, shall be arrested.
Nine people, including seven children, were burned to death in Vartinis (Altınova) town in Turkey's Kurdish-majority eastern province of Muş in 1993, which has come to be known as the Vartinis Massacre.
Speaking to bianet following the hearing today (September 21), Muş Bar Chair Kadir Karaçelik, the lawyer of the aggrieved party, has said, "This is, of course, an injunction. We cannot say that justice has been fully served for the aggrieved party, but the ruling of arrest is still good news, considering that even a detention warrant is not issued in such grave cases."
Raising concerns that there is still a risk of expiry of statutory limitations, lawyer Karaçelik has said, "However, after the arrest warrant is executed, we expect that the process of trial will speed up and the ruling will be handed down in a few hearings. When the case is brought to the Court of Cassation, a ruling may be given quickly as the file was legally examined before."
The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office of the Court of Cassation indicated that an effective investigation or prosecution was not carried out into the incident and said that a retrial should be held.
In the trial over the killing of nine people by being burned to death in Vartinis in Muş province, the 1st Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation concluded that Bülent Karaoğlu, the then Hasköy District Gendarmerie Commander, had been accountable for the massacre.
The Court of Cassation overturned the local court's ruling of acquittal, saying that "Karaoğlu gave the order to burn the village."
Following this ruling, the retrial over the Vartinis Massacre started at the Kırıkkale 1st Heavy Penal Court today (September 21).
In his statement at the hearing today, lawyer Kadir Karaçelik commented on one of the soldiers who submitted a petition, expressing his demand for being a witness again, after witnessing at the first stage of the trial.
"The defendant is putting pressure on the witnesses and wants them to change their statements. His attempted spoliation of evidence had already been proven. The Court of Cassation overturned the ruling so that a ruling of conviction could be given," the lawyer said.
"What are you waiting to arrest," he asked.
Karaçelik has told bianet that the soldier, when he first made a witness statement in the trial, said that "the defendant on trial was at the scene of the incident, they went to the village and an operation was launched."
As for the lawyer of the defendant, s/he said, "There is an atrocity but my client is not the only one responsible."
The court has rejected the defendant's request for hearing the witness again and ruled that the defendant shall be arrested.
The next hearing will be held on November 4, 2021.

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