Turkish court overturns acquittal of Kurdish man charged for attending son’s funeral

A Turkish higher court in southeastern Diyarbakır province has ruled to overturn an acquittal verdict by another court for Hasan Birlik, whose son was killed in 2015 in the nearby Şırnak province, news site Duvar reported on Friday.

Hasan Birlik had first faced trial last year on terrorism charges for attending funeral services for his son, Hacı Lokman Birlik, who Turkish authorities accused of being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“I just attended my son's funeral,” Hasan Birlik had said to the court in southeastern Şırnak province. “What kind of crime might I have committed?”

Evidence against the mourning father included waving banners coloured red, yellow and green - the traditional national colours of the Kurdish people, which the PKK also uses as part of its symbolism. Another piece of evidence presented to the court was that funeral attendants had chanted, “Martyrs never die,” in Kurdish.

The Şırnak court acquitted Birlik and nine others facing similar charges in November, citing a lack of evidence in terrorist propaganda.

Hacı Lokman Birlik, 24, was shot 28 times, tied behind an armoured vehicle and dragged on the streets of Şırnak in October 2015. Turkish authorities maintained that he was a PKK member shot dead in clashes between armed forces and Kurdish militants, in the months following the collapse of a peace process.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the PKK membership allegation against Birlik was untrue, but he was an activist who a had been “executed by police”. The young man was also an actor who worked with the Şırnak Municipality’s Cultural Services department, and the brother-in-law of former HDP lawmaker Leyla Birlik, according to family and the left-wing HDP.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s prime minister at the time of Hacı Lokman Birlik’s death, had called the incident "unacceptable," saying that Turkish security forces "fight terrorism within the bounds of the rule of law," and ordered an investigation into the incident.

The family’s lawyers pressed charges against the police officer who ordered the dragging, Hacı Murat Dinçer, for torture and mistreatment, insulting the memory of the deceased, abuse of authority and first-degree murder, saying Birlik was still alive when he was tied to the vehicle.

In the four and a half years since, there has been little development in the case, however the officer ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections as a candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Dinçer also received an award from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his services in Şırnak.