Turkey’s Erdoğan pardons perpetrator of 1993 Sivas massacre

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has issued a presidential pardon over health problems for Ahmet Turan Kılıç, who had been serving a life sentence for his involvement in the Sivas Massacre of 1993.

The 86-year-old man had originally been sentenced to death in 2000 for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, but his sentence was changed to life in prison without parole when Turkey removed the death penalty.

Thirty three people, including writers and artists who had gathered in Turkey’s central Sivas province for a festival celebrating Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal, were killed on July 2, 1993 when a mob set fire to the Madımak Hotel they were staying at.

The youngest victims of the massacre were 12-year-old Koray Kaya and his 16-year-old sister Menekşe. Alevi poets Hasret Gültekin and Metin Altıok were also killed in the attack.

The mob had gathered against Aziz Nesin, a left-wing Turkish writer who was vilified for his attempt to publish a translation of Salman Rushdie’s controversial book the Satanic Verses. Nesin survived the attack.

Article 104 of the Turkish constitution lists pardoning convicted persons with chronic illness, disabilities or old age as part of the duties of the president. However, the authority is rarely used.

There are at least 1,333 people in Turkey’s prisons with chronic illnesses or conditions that require medical attention, including terminal cancers and mental illnesses, while at least 50 prisoners have lost their lives in 2019 due to a lack of access to healthcare, a report by Human Rights Association (İHD) found.

"While the system does not work for dozens of elderly and sick prisoners, it does protect some people," former lawmaker from the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Metin Altıok's daughter Zeynep Altıok said in a statement. "Can Erdoğan do the same for all sick prisoners?"