Police detain 10 suspects in racist attack in central Turkey

The chief public prosecutor in the central Konya province announced on Saturday that 10 people have been detained as part of an investigation into the killing of seven members of a Kurdish family in a village in the Meram district.

“The incident has its roots in disputes that have continued for 11 years between the families,” the chief public prosecutor of Konya, Ramazan Solmaz, said in a statement. “Claims that the act was carried out with the reason of racist hatred do not reflect the truth.”

The two neighbouring families have been in disagreement since 2010, Solmaz said.

Daily Evrensel reported four more detentions later on Sunday, bringing the total to 14.

Mezopotamya news agency reported one Mehmet Altun as the main perpetrator in the deaths of the Dedeoğlu family.

According to Mezopotamya, the suspect Mehmet Altun was the brother of Ayşe Keleş, who had been part of the mob that attacked the family in May this year, causing grave injury to several members.

The prosecutor didn’t cite a name for the main suspect, but said the suspect “who was understood to be the perpetrator via CCTV footage in the incident that occurred yesterday” had not been part of the previous investigations or incidents.

Konya Bar Association President Mustafa Aladağ spoke to Mezopotamya and said lawyers for the family had not been informed of the identities of the suspects, and that they had discovered the name Mehmet Altun from reports in local media.

On Friday, seven members of the Dedeoğlu family were shot dead in the front yard of their home, which was later set on fire.

The family had been attacked earlier in May, when a mob of some 60 people gathered to push them out of their home. Family member Barış Dedeoğlu, who was killed in Friday’s attack, told reporters at the time that they had been receiving death threats and told to leave because they were Kurdish.

“There is no Turkish-Kurdish issue aspect here,” Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Friday, speaking more than five hours after the incident, Mezopotamya reported. The minister accused people speaking on the death of seven Kurds in the conservative heartland of the country of “adding fuel to the fire from the inside and outside to pit this nation against one another”.

Meanwhile on Saturday, a group gathered to protest the death of the Dedeoğlu family in capital Ankara were faced with riot police and tear gas, Evrensel reported.

The group Forces of Labour and Democracy Ankara had not yet gathered fully when the police kettled the crowd and told them they could not read a press statement in front of either the city council building as they wanted, or the offices of a left-wing union as they later tried to adapt. Police used tear gas on the group when some of them left to gather in front of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters.

Journalists were battered and had their cameras and work confiscated in the police intervention.

The Forces of Labour and Democracy Istanbul also held a demonstration on Saturday in the central Taksim district, according to Evrensel.

“Those who release murderers, saying there was not enough evidence, and pit them against Kurds once again are co-conspirators in this massacre of seven of our people,” the group said in a statement read in the Tünel Square.

Following the press statement, protesters were attacked by a civilian group bearing sticks of metal and wood, union news website Sendika reported. The group were caught on camera provoking onlookers, saying the protesters had chanted pro-terrorism slogans and had attempted to burn down the neighbourhood.

The Parliamentary Human Rights Commission had planned a visit to Konya to investigate the matter for Monday, but the visit was cancelled, Evrensel reported.

HDP protested the decision to cancel the visit, saying it had been made “because it came out that the massacre had a racist basis”.

“We were notified that the visit was cancelled because ‘the environment is not suitable’, after the funerals were held and Justice and Development Party (AKP) members conducted their investigations in the area,” HDP said.

“They conducted a research and saw that they would have to report on the matter if they went, so they cancelled,” Evrensel cited HDP Deputy Group Chairwoman Meral Danış Beştaş as saying.

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