Skip to main content

Turkish official says police played no role in protester's death

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
updated 8:40 AM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ahmet Atakan died from injuries amid anti-government protests in Hatay province Tuesday
  • Turkey's interior minister: "There was no police intervention" and he "fell from a high place"
  • Turkish authorities in Hatay have not responded to requests for an official autopsy report

Ankara, Turkey (CNN) -- A day after conflicting accounts over the death of a protester sparked clashes between security forces and demonstrators in several Turkish cities, Turkey's interior minister insisted police played no role in the man's fatal injuries.

"What happened in Hatay is a saddening event. I wish peace from God for our deceased citizen," Muammer Guler told journalists. He was referring to Ahmet Atakan, 22, who died as a result of his injuries amid a predawn battle between demonstrators and riot police in the Turkish border province of Hatay on Tuesday.

"The investigation into the event was started immediately. However, as you also watched yesterday, footage emerged that shows there was no police intervention and that (he) fell from a high place. This is what the autopsy report says as well," Guler said.

Turkish authorities in the province of Hatay have not responded to CNN requests to share Atakan's official autopsy report.

Turkey divided over Syria
Competing claims of chemical weapons
Writer: Turkey dangerously polarized

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses and family members of the dead protester have insisted that Atakan did not fall from a building. Rather, they told CNN, he was shot in the head at close range by a tear gas canister fired by a passing police armored personnel carrier.

Since a wave of protests erupted over government plans to replace a park in Istanbul with a shopping mall last May, human rights groups have documented cases of a number of activists who were blinded, suffered brain damage, or remain in medically induced comas a result of tear gas canisters fired at their heads.

But Turkish government officials have pointed to two videos to bolster the case that Atakan fell to his death Tuesday morning.

One video from a camera aboard a police vehicle showed debris apparently being hurled from rooftops at the vehicle as it drove up Hatay's Gunduz Street. For months, the area has been the site of nearly weekly clashes between demonstrators from Turkey's Alawite religious minority and Turkish security forces.

At one moment in the video, the body of a man tumbles off of a dark curb onto the street, apparently forcing the police vehicle to swerve.

Later Tuesday, a second grainy video emerged on Turkish television that showed something that could have been a human body falling down the side of a building as police armored vehicles navigated Gunduz Street.

It is not clear whether the interior minister's statements or the two videos will persuade many critics of the Turkish government.

At a funeral in Hatay on Tuesday, angry relatives, friends and neighbors chanted "murderer police" as they carried Atakan's casket to a freshly dug grave.

"Erdogan's dogs killed my son," screamed Atakan's mother Emsal, in an interview with CNN. She was referring to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister.

Atakan is the second man from his neighborhood -- and from the city of Hatay's Alawite community -- to have died amid clashes with police.

"How he died doesn't concern me, it's just a detail," said Hasan Akgol, a member of parliament from the opposition Republican People's Party in Hatay.

"The big picture is he died during a police intervention," he added in an interview with CNN. "How many more young kids are going to be killed by this kind of stuff?"

At least four other anti-government demonstrators -- all from Turkey's Alawite and Alevi religious minorities -- have also died as a result of injuries received amid the anti-government unrest that has ebbed and waned across Turkey throughout the summer.

"No matter what happened, we know that there are ethnic-based provocations in Hatay," Interior Minister Guler told journalists Wednesday.

Tear gas wafted through downtown Hatay late Tuesday night, after angry residents emerged from Atakan's funeral to again clash with Turkish riot police on Gunduz Street.

And on Tuesday night, Turkish riot police fired water cannons, plastic pellets and tear gas in Hatay province -- and in the cities of Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul -- to disperse angry protests that erupted in response to Atakan's death.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 11:35 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 5:26 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 6:28 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT