The trial of six former military officers charged with killing six Kurdish villagers in 1993 has begun in Hernak in south-eastern Turkey.The former military officers, who include generals, are being tried on charges of torturing the Kurdish villagers, killing them and then hiding their corpses.
In their defence, they argue that they were suspicious about the villagers’ arrival from the town of Görümlü in Hernak, fearing they were there to help the insurgents who belonged to the PKK amid battles that the Kurdish secessionist group was having with the Turkish army.
None of the defendants, who are currently serving a life sentence, attended the trial’s first session on Tuesday. The court decided to move the defendants to Ankara for security reasons, although it has not yet set a date for the next session.
The victims’ families and human rights organisations have praised the trail against the former general Mete Sayar in particular. They consider the move to be the beginning of the end of an era when Kurds went missing and those accused of murdering them got away with their crimes.
“The trial of Mete Sayar and others for the Görümlü villagers’ killing and disappearance is a significant step toward securing justice for their families,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The families have been waiting two decades for this day,” she added.
The PKK started its armed insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, which has resulted in the death of more than 40,000 persons to date.
The government of Reccep Tayyip Erdogan resumed dialogue with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan earlier this year, but these talks are currently frozen after the group announced a unilateral ceasefire in March but then went back to armed operations in September saying that the regime’s peace initiatives have so far been insufficient.