Murder of Sevag Balıkçı
Sevag Şahin Balıkçı (April 1, 1986 – April 24, 2011) was a Turkish soldier of Armenian descent who was shot to death during compulsory military service. The incident occurred on April 24, 2011, the remembrance day of the Armenian genocide. The perpetrator Kıvanç Ağaoglu was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. However, there have been several eye-witness accounts and testimonies that claim that the shooting was not accidental as the official reports suggest, but intentional. Other reports claim that the shooting was a hate crime towards Balıkçı's Armenian identity.
Sevag Şahin Balıkçı
|Born||April 1, 1986|
|Died||April 24, 2011 (aged 25)|
|Cause of death||Bullet wound|
|Resting place||Şişli Armenian Cemetery|
Sevag Balıkçı was killed by a gunshot in Batman, southeastern Turkey where he was serving his last 23 days as a conscripted private. Official reports from military commanders in Batman given to the Balıkçı family argued that Sevag was killed unintentionally while "joking around" with his friend. The family believed the initial reports and claimed that their son should not be considered a martyr since he died accidentally. Sevag's fiancée, however, called the report into question because, according to their conversations on the phone with Balıkçı, he was being harassed by ultra-nationalist soldier(s). The funeral was at the Feriköy Surp Vartanants Armenian church. Attendees of the funeral included Rakel Dink (wife of murdered Armenian journalist Hrant Dink), Government Minister Egemen Bağış, Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, top military commanders, and other politicians like Adalar Mayor Mustafa Farsakoğlu. He was buried in the Şişli Armenian Cemetery.
According to Balıkçı's lawyer Cem Halavurt, an investigation conducted on May 1, 2011 into the background (including his internet social networks, which were shut down after the incident) of the suspect, Kıvanç Ağaoglu, revealed that he was a Turkish ultra-nationalist. Through his Facebook profile, it was discovered that he was a sympathizer of nationalist politician Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and Turkish agent / contract killer Abdullah Çatlı, who himself had a history of Anti-Armenian activity such as the Armenian Genocide Memorial bombing in a Paris suburb in 1984. His Facebook profile also showed that he was a sympathizerof the Great Union Party (BBP), a far-right nationalist party in Turkey.
The court proceedings took place at the 2nd Air Force Command Court Martial Court in Diyarbakır. The Balıkçı family was represented by lawyer Cem Halavurt while Kıvanç Ağaoglu is represented by lawyer İbrahim Gök. The Balıkçı family insisted that the shooting was not accidental but intentional and that the suspect should have been charged with murder. The Turkish Military Prosecutor’s Office demanded a nine-year sentence for Kıvanç Ağaoğlu on the charge of “murder as a result of negligence.” Kıvanç Ağaoğlu continues to deny all charges of first-degree murder insisting that his gun went off accidentally. Upon suspicion of negligence among the commanders at the military station, non-commissioned officer Sadrettin Ersöz who is represented by lawyer Yalçın Torun was also charged with negligence in the alleged killing.
During the trial's first hearing on July 24, 2011, Kıvanç Ağaoğlu was set free. During the trial an eyewitness provided details regarding the shooting. The eyewitness testified that Kıvanç Ağaoğlu threatened Sevag by saying, "I will kill you fatty!".
During the trial's fifth hearing on December 27, 2011, testimony emerging from Halil Ekşi, a conscripted soldier who was serving in the same military unit as Sevag Balıkçı, stated that Balıkçı's death was not accidental as the official reports suggest, but intentional. This was a reversal of Ekşi's original testimony which portrayed the killing as an accident. He changed his position because his "conscience didn't allow" (vicdanım elvermiyor) him to continue with the original testimony. The testimony also suggested that Halil Ekşi was visited by Kıvanç Ağaoğlu's uncle Bülent Kaya who wrote the testimony with Ekşi himself, suggesting pressure was applied towards the eyewitnesses. The Balıkçı family lawyer Cem Halavurt declared that a new lawsuit will be filed against the uncle and sister of Ağaoğlu for the obstruction of justice. The judge during the hearing also stated that it was a "matter of honor" for him to reach a fair verdict in the case. Testimony given by Sevag Balıkçı's fiancée on March 30, 2012 stated that he was subjected to psychological pressure at the military compound. His fiance was told by Sevag through telephone conversations with him that he feared for his life because a certain military serviceman threatened him by saying, "If war were to happen with Armenia, you would be the first person I would kill". According to the testimony, Sevag was also under pressure to convert to Islam.
During the trial's ninth hearing on November 5, 2012, defense lawyer İbrahim Gök requested a media ban on all further hearings. Prosecuting attorney Cem Halavurt rejected the proposal stating that "If there is a press ban in this court, will Turkey stop talking about the Armenian issue? Or will people not talk about deaths in the army? This is why we demand that the press ban be overruled. Even if we don't like certain thoughts, we should treat them as part of free speech in a democratic society." İbrahim Gök claimed that the trial was becoming "politicized" and that the case has nothing to do with the events of 1915 (referring to the Armenian genocide). The request for a press ban was rejected.
On March 26, 2013 a court ruled that the incident was accidental and sentenced Kıvanç Ağaoğlu for four years and five months in prison. However, the decision was overturned by the Military Supreme Court on July 2014 on the basis that "legal documents did not include the court's name," and the trial was reinitiated in December 2014. In the meantime, one of the witnesses of the trial who first stated that Balıkçı was killed intentionally and then changed his testimony to argue that Balıkçı was killed accidentally was tried for lying under oath. During this trial, Halil Ekşi, the witness in question, stated that he was forced to lie because he was under pressure, while his family testified that they were being threatened by Ağaoğlu's family. Upon news of this occurrence, the next trial was set for February 27, 2015.
On March 26, 2013, Kıvanç Ağaoğlu was convicted by the Diyarbakır 2nd Air Force Command Military Court for murder with deliberate negligence and sentenced to four years five months and ten days of imprisonment. Later, the Military Supreme Court has overturned the ruling and sent the case for reconsideration. After 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, military courts were suspended in Turkey and the case was sent to the Kozluk Criminal Court of First Instance of Batman where the retrial started on February 8, 2018. According to the verdict of the Kozluk Criminal Court of First Instance, Kıvanç Ağaoğlu has been found guilty of deliberate murder and sentenced to 16 years and 8 months of imprisonment.
In May 2015, a criminology report was conduct on Balıkçı and it was discovered that 41 bullet holes were found in his military uniform. It was initially stated by the military commandment at the time of the murder that there were two bullet holes.
A justice initiative was launched in Turkey devoted to the case of Sevag Balıkçı. Members of the panel include the mother of Sevag, Ani Balıkçı, Arat Dink, Kerem Kabadayı, Ufuk Uras, Rakel Dink, and others. The initiative protested the court's decision in letting suspect Kıvanç Ağaoğlu free and proclaimed that Sevag was murdered due to a hate crime. Kerem Kabadayı remarked that "If this hate crime goes unpunished, the Armenian youth in Turkey will be under threat."
- ""Er Sevag Balıkçı doğrudan vurulmuş!" ("Private Sevag Balıkçı was shot directly")". Agos. Archived from the original on 18 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- "Ethnic Armenian Soldier Shot on 'Genocide Day', Radikal Reports". Bloomberg. Original from Radikal. Apr 25, 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Armenian private killed intentionally, new testimony shows". Zaman. 2012-01-27. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2012.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Doubts emerge in death of Armenian-Turk soldier". Hurriyet. 2012-01-30. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Military holds official funeral for fallen soldier at church". Zaman. 28 April 2011. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2012.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Sevag Balıkçı'nın annesi: Tetiği çeken o ellerle yan yana oturuyorum..." T24 (in Turkish). 03.11.2012. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2012. Check date values in:
- "Court ruling will show how Turkey sees Armenians, says Balıkçı's mother". Zaman. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2012.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Turkish-Armenian soldier to be laid to rest Wednesday". Zaman. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Halavurt: "Sevag 24 Nisan'da Planlı Şekilde Öldürülmüş Olabilir"". Bianet (in Turkish). May 4, 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
:Translated from Turkish: "On May 1, 2011, after investigating into the background of the suspect, we discovered that he was a sympathizer of the BBP. We also have encountured nationalist themes in his social networks. For example, Muhsin Yazicioglu and Abdullah Catli photos were present" according to Balikci lawyer Halavurt.
- "Sevag Şahin'i vuran asker BBP'li miydi?". Firatnews. May 4, 2011. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Translated from Turkish: Lawyer Halavurt said, "On his Facebook profile we discovered videos of Muhsin Yazicioglu. We also came upon nationalist and racist arguments, articles, video clips, and data
- "'Sevag 24 Nisan için kurban olarak seçildi'". Agos (in Turkish). 20 April 2012. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title translated from Turkish: Sevag Balikci was selected as another martyr of April 24. Quote from article: "We learned that Kivanc Agaoglu had nationalistic sympathies"
- "Title translated from Turkish: What Happened to Sevag Balikci?". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Translated from Turkish: "We discovered that he was a sympathizer of the BBP. We also have encountered nationalist themes in his social networks. For example, Muhsin Yazicioglu and Abdullah Catli photos were present" according to Balikci lawyer Halavurt."
- "Sevag'ın Ölümünde Şüpheler Artıyor". Nor Zartonk (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title translated from Turkish: Doubts emerge on the death of Sevag
- "Sevagin Katili Serbest Birakilmis". Bianet. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
Quote from article: "The first hearing was held at the 2nd Airforce Commandment Court Martials in Diyarbakir[permanent dead link]
- Dogan, Yonca Poyraz (31 January 2012). "Armenian private's family: Sevag was killed intentionally while serving army". Zaman. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
The family of a young man of Armenian descent shot dead by another private while serving in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have said they believe that he was intentionally killed, after new evidence changed the course of the trial.
- "Turkey's court again does not sentence murderer of Armenian soldier killed in Turkish army". News.am. February 14, 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Sevag Balıkçı killed because of commanders' negligence?". PanARMENIAN.Net. May 4, 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Sevag'in Katili Serbest Birakildi". Demokrat Haber (in Turkish). July 11, 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
Titled translated from Turkish: Sevag's killer is set free.[permanent dead link]
- Istemil, Huseyin (8 August 2011). "Sevag'ı vuran asker serbest". Taraf (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
Title translated from Turkish: The killer of Sevag is set free.
- "'Kazara' öldürülen Sevag Şahin Balıkçı anıldı". Ajans (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Sevag'ı Öldürmekten Sanık Er Serbest". Bianet (in Turkish). Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "'I Will Kill You, Fatty!'". Armenian Weekly. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "'Seni vururum tombulum'". Sabah (in Turkish). 07.08.2011. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title Translated from Turkish: I will kill you fatty!Check date values in:
- "'Sadece hakikati öğrenmek istiyoruz'". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title Translated from Turkish: All we want to know is the truth.
- "Sevag İçin Adalet Girişimi: Sevag Nefret Cinayetine Kurban Gitti". Baskahaber (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 December 2012.
27 Aralık 2011 tarihinde bir tanık, "Vicdanım elvermiyor" diyerek ifadesini değiştirdi.
- "Sevag'ın ölümündeki sisi dağıtan pişmanlık". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Translated from Turkish: The family of Kıvanç, especially his uncle, told me to speak in favor of the defendant Ağaoğlu.
- "Trial resumes as key witness in Armenian-Turkish soldier death changes testimony". PanArmenian.net. January 30, 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
“We are going to file a criminal complaint about Ağaoğlu’s sister and uncle and open a new lawsuit. Kıvanç runs the risk of getting arrested in this trial, and that is what we are going to request,” Halavurt said.
- "Fiancé of Armenian soldier killed in Turkish army testifies before court". News.am. Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Nişanlıdan 'Ermenilerle savaşırsak ilk seni öldürürüm' iddiası". Sabah (in Turkish). 06.04.2012. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title Translated from Turkish: From the fiance: If we were to go to war with Armenia, I would kill you first"Check date values in:
- "Askeriyeyi karıştıracak Ermeni iddiası". Sicak Gundem (in Turkish). 4 June 2012. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Court rules death of Turkish Armenian private an accident". Zaman. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- ""Sevag Balıkçı Davası Usul Yönünden Bozuldu" ("The Sevag Balıkçı case overturned due to procedural eror")". Bianet. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- ""Sevag Balıkçı davası yeniden görülmeye başlandı" ("The retrial of the Sevag Balıkçı case has begun")". Agos. Archived from the original on 20 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- ""Er Sevag Balıkçı davası yeniden görülecek" ("The Sevag Balıkçı will be seen again")". T24. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- "Zorunlu askerliğini yaparken öldürülen Sevag Balıkçı davasında karar çıktı". Agos (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-01-13.
- "Zorunlu askerliğini yaparken öldürülen Sevag Balıkçı davasında karar çıktı". Agos (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-01-13.
- "Er Sevag Balıkçı'nın kıyafetlerinden 41 delik çıktı" (in Turkish). T24. 30 May 2015.
- "Initiative launched in Turkey for Armenian soldier killed in Turkish army". Hayernaysor. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Sevag İçin Adalet Girişimi: Sevag Nefret Cinayetine Kurban Gitti". SonDakika (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 December 2012.
Title translated from Turkish: Sevag Balikci died from a hate crime.