Istanbul court acquits bomb accused Pinar Selek for fourth time

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

A court in the Turkish capital Istanbul yesterday cleared exiled academic Pinar Selek of killing seven in a bomb attack in 1998. It is the fourth time the courts have cleared her.

File photo of Selek.
Image: Streetpepper.

Forensic investigators blamed the explosion, which also injured 127, in the city's Spice Bazaar on an inadvertent gas leak. Selek was arrested two days after the explosion. She spent two years in prison but has been acquitted at each of three trials. Following exonerations in 2006 and 2008 she headed to Europe.

Initially travelling to Germany, Selek, now 43, then headed to France. She is a researcher at the University of Lyon. She resides in Strasbourg and is involved with feminist activism. Selek specialises in the Kurdish people.

In addition to the bombing, Selek was accused of aiding Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militancy. She has been free since the 2000 publication of a report rejecting the bombing claim in favour of a gas leak.

Another acquittal came in 2011. That was set aside the following year and in January 2013 a conviction was substituted with a life sentence. The sentence followed a conviction in which chief judge Vedat Yılmazabdurrahmanoğlu indicated he did not accept the evidence proved a bombing but was outvoted by two fellow judges.

That sentence was cancelled in June this year by the Supreme Court of Appeals. A warrant for her arrest was cancelled in October. Turkey had previously sought extradition from France.

We have been waiting in front of courtrooms for sixteen years

—Selek supporter and activist Füsun Demirel

Selek has also refused to identify to police rebels met in the course of research. Defence lawyer Akın Atalay had submitted the evidence did not prove a bombing had occurred, and that the repeated prosecutions violate Turkish and international fair trial standards prohibiting double jeopardy. He was countered by Istanbul public prosecutor Yılmaz Kıstı who earlier this month sought a new life sentence in the case.

The case has attracted supporters of Selek in Turkey and France. They claim the prosecution is politically motivated to prevent her from conducting sociological research. At the start of the appeal in April this year Turkish and French protestors gathered outside the Çağlayan Courthouse, waving banners demanding "Justice for Pinar Selek".

Protestors were there on December 5 when the request for a new life sentence was made. "We have been waiting in front of courtrooms for sixteen years", activist Füsun Demirel told journalists at the protest. "Pınar has resisted this ruthlessness, this injustice, by trying to live as fully as she can."

Also acquitted yesterday was Abdulmecit Ozturk. The court said there was no "exact and convincing" evidence against the pair. Selek has indicated a desire to return to Turkey with her name cleared. "We will be standing guard on her behalf until she returns here", Demriel promised at the December 5 protest.