Emotional ceremony for slain prosecutor in Istanbul
Prosecutors, lawyers and judges stand on April 1, 2015, near a statue of Lady Justice during a funeral ceremony for senior Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday in Istanbul’s main courthouse on Wednesday to pay tribute to the prosecutor who was killed by extremists.
Members of justice, judges, prosecutors, lawyers as well as army officials and politicians and relatives of Mehmet Selim Kiraz, 46, attended the official ceremony at Caglayan Courthouse.
Kiraz was taken hostage by a Marxist-Leninist group on Tuesday midday at Caglayan Courthouse and was shot by his captors after hours of negotiations between Turkish police forces and the two hostage-takers. He died of his wounds at the hospital.
He had been overseeing the case of Berkin Elvan, 15, who was critically injured during 2013’s anti-government Gezi Park protests and died after almost nine months in a coma.
Tight security measures at the courthouse resulted in lines of tens of meters of people undeterred to enter the courthouse.
The strong gathering witnessed the emotional speeches of Turkey’s Justice Minister Kenan Ipek and Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu.
“This attack was not only targeting our deceased colleague but also our nation,” said Ipek. “It is time to band together against terrorism. It is time to say ‘We are all Mehmet Selim.'”
Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Salihoglu said that Kiraz had become a martyr.
One of Kiraz’s friends Onur Ekinci, a prosecutor at Caglayan Courthouse, told The Anadolu Agency that the two attackers’ easy entry into the building would be on Turkey’s agenda in the coming days.
“It has been told us that from now on police officers will protect the building,” Ekinci added. “We thought that the same thing could happen to us.”
“He was a very good person and even the attackers would have liked him if they had known him,” Ekinci said.
Another judge working in the same courthouse with Kiraz and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “An innocent person who was just trying to do his job was killed.”
“This could have been any of us and we are worried,” she added.
Speaking to the press while receiving condolences at the courthouse Kiraz’s father Muhammet Hakki Kiraz said that his son had not “deserved this” but that it was “fate.”
He added that he thanked Allah, as his son did not die engaged in wrongdoing but with honor and dignity.
Speaking after the ceremony outside the Caglayan courthouse, Umit Kocasakal, head of the Istanbul Bar Association, said: "The security issue about the court should be solved with dialogue, beyond all blame. Everybody should calm down and choose words carefully before speaking."
"It is time to act with solidarity against terrorism. We are deeply in sorrow" Kocasakal said.
Kiraz's religious funeral, occurring after the ceremony at the courthouse, is currently being held at the Istanbul Eyup Sultan Mosque.
Turkey’s former president Abdullah Gul, Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as well as scores of Turkish citizens attended.
Meanwhile, 21 people, including students, have been taken into custody over an unauthorized demonstration outside of Istanbul University on Wednesday, the Istanbul police department said.
The demonstrators were protesting the killing of the two attackers, who were killed when police forces intervened in the courthouse Tuesday.
They have been identified as Safak Yayla, born 1991, and Bahtiyar Dogruyol, born 1987.
A photograph — showing one of the two pointing a gun at Kiraz’s head — was published Tuesday during the hostage situation on a Facebook page claiming to be close to an armed leftist group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front.
The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, was founded in 1978. The extremist group, which purports to support Marxist-Leninist ideology, was mostly active during the Cold War era but revived its attacks in recent years.
Targeting security officials, high-profile politicians and carrying out suicide bombings, the group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The group was violent since the beginning. In 1980, its members proceeded to assassinate Prime Minister Nihat Erim as well as MP Gun Sazak. This prompted swift military intervention that crippled the group’s capabilities to carry out attacks since numerous members were imprisoned.
But the group made headlines again in 1995 by assassinating a prominent businessman, Ozdemir Sabanci, in his office as well as two other people.
After this high-profile assassination, the group lay dormant before renewing with violence in 2012 when they assassinated four police officers in Istanbul. It conducted an attack against the U.S. embassy in Ankara in 2013.
A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the embassy, killing one security officer and wounding several others.
According to The New York Times, Washington announced last year rewards of $3 million for information leading to the location of each of the group’s top three leaders — Musa Asoglu, Zerrin Sari and Seher Demir Sen.
In 2013, militants threw bombs at the Ministry of Justice in 2013 while others attacked the ruling Justice and Development Party’s headquarters in Ankara with a flamethrower.
Earlier this year in January, one member opened fire on police officers at Istanbul’s Taksim Square. No injuries or casualties were reported, but a police vehicle was damaged.
Last week, DHKP-C reportedly carried out a bomb attack against Istanbul-based Adimlar magazine, a monthly political outlet, killing one writer and wounding three others.
[This story has been edited from the source material.]