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Turkish sociologist gets life sentence in absentia

Demonstrators gathered at the court on 24 January demanding Pinar Selek's acquittal
Demonstrators gathered at the court on 24 January demanding Pinar Selek's acquittal

(Edited and condensed)

(BIANET/IFEX) - 24 January 2013 - An Istanbul court has sentenced sociologist Pinar Selek to life in prison for her alleged involvement in the 1998 Spice Bazaar explosion, a case that has been reopened three times in 14 years. The court also issued an arrest warrant for Selek, as she is currently in Strasbourg for her PhD in sociology.

The verdict was reached by a panel of judges, with one objection from Vedat Yılmazabdurrahmanoğlu, the head judge on the case.

On November 22, 2012, the court commuted an earlier not-guilty verdict and ordered Selek to stand trial for life sentence on December 13.

On December 13, the court rejected a recusal proposal made by the defense attorneys, saying that "there is no appearing reason to doubt judges' objectivity". Defense attorney Akın Atalay objected to the rejection and said that it violated Crime Prosecution Law Article 31.

Early on the morning of 24 January, 2013, roughly 150 people, including academicians and a lawyer from France, gathered on the steps of the Istanbul Courthouse to make a press statement. Demonstrators held banners in Turkish and French demanding justice and an acquittal for Pinar Selek.

The court session opened at 11:10 a.m., where Selek's 50 lawyers formed a crowd in the courtroom.

The panel of judges included a former judge who had rejected the acquittal verdict, as well as another judge who had appealed the acquittal verdict. The court once again rejected the defense attorneys' requests to dismiss the judges (due to lack objectivity) and restore the acquittal verdict.

The defense attorneys claimed that the initial verdict for acquittal should have been the final decision. "By overturning their own verdict for acquittal, the judges have already shown their true colours," said defense attorney Haydar Topal.

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