Turkey knew about Suruç bombing plot but turned blind eye – lawyer group report
As Turkey marked on Monday the fifth anniversary of the Suruç suicide bombing that left 33 people dead and 100 wounded, questions remain over the days leading up to the deadly attack and the events that followed.
The Justice for Suruç Platform, a group of lawyers and legal institutions involved in the case, shared the findings of a new report at a press conference in Ankara on Saturday that accuses government officials of having prior knowledge of the plot but turning a blind eye.
The report pointed to intelligence sent to authorities in Suruç before the attack that warned of a suicide bombing attempt.
On July 20, 2015, the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group bombed a group of youth activists, the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), in the southern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa, bordering Syria.
The activists had gathered at the Amara Cultural Centre to discuss the reconstruction of the neighbouring Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, the site of an ISIS siege that made international headlines in 2014.
The suicide bomber, Abdurrahman Alagöz, was later discovered to be a wanted terror suspect, along with his brother Yunus Emre, the perpetrator of the deadly Ankara bombing that killed 109 people a few months later in October 2015, the report said.
Despite authorities’ efforts to search people in the vicinity, Alagöz managed to roam freely in Suruç on the day of the attack, according to the report, which cited CCTV footage as evidence.
After the attack, police forces prevented ambulances from arriving on the scene of the incident and used pepper spray on wounded people, the report said.
The report cited an 18-month confidentiality order on the investigation’s findings, as well as other indications of neglect and deficiencies in the investigation, have left a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the ISIS attack.
Requests by Justice for Suruç Platform to expand the scope of the investigation, open it to public control and include victims in the process have all been denied, and an application submitted to Turkey’s Constitutional Court regarding alleged violations in the case was rejected.
The report said that the Ankara bombing could have been prevented if the request Justice for Suruç Platform submitted for the expansion of the case “had even been examined”.
Some findings of the Suruç bombing investigation only became public in documents relating to the subsequent Ankara bombing, the report said.
The only suspect currently being tried in the Suruç case is Yakub Şahin, while two other suspects – İlhami Bali and Deniz Büyükçelebi – remain at large.
Şahin was due to appear in court for the first time earlier last week, but failed to show up.
The report also accused Turkish civil servants of destroying valuable evidence, and protested that no legal against was taken against them for the act.
Five hours had been cut from the video footage of the day of the Suruç attack – footage that was only brought in as evidence for the investigation three-and-a-half years later, the report said.
“It is evident that footage following the massacre was intentionally not included in the case file,” the report statement, as it shows “how the transfer of the wounded to hospitals was prevented by law-enforcement authorities, pepper spray was used on the crowds and perhaps more”.
Furthermore, the court has turned “a blind eye to crimes committed by civil servants by not filing a criminal complaint (against them)”, it said.
“It is very evident that the state overlooked a massacre by not taking precautions in Suruç,’’ the report said. “There is not just an oversight, but ill intent and this is not a claim, as it is a truth that has been substantiated by documents.”