Kayseri: Two Turkish police were jailed on Wednesday for at least 10 years for beating to death a teenager in 2013 protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sparking fresh protests as critics slammed the verdicts for being absurdly lenient.
The court in the central city of Kayseri sentenced Mevlut Saldogan to 10 years and 10 months in prison and fellow police officer Yalcin Akbulut to 10 years for the killing of Ali Ismail Korkmaz, 19, in the western city of Eskisehir on June 2, 2013.
It was just the second verdict against the police forces over their conduct in the 2013 protests, while legal cases are in progress against thousands of protesters.
The judgement sparked uproar in the courtroom, with supporters of the Korkmaz family chanting "you are all assassins" and "the assassin state will be brought to account".
After the verdict was read out, around 1,000 protesters clashed outside the court with riot police who dispersed them using tear gas and water cannon, an AFP correspondent said.
The verdict also sparked protests in other Turkish cities including Istanbul and the southern city of Adana, with police using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse an evening protest on Kizilay square in central Ankara.
The sentences were far lower than the life imprisonment demanded by prosecutors.
Three bakers were handed sentences of six years, eight months for taking part in the killing while another suspect received a three year and four months sentence.
Two other policemen were acquitted for lack of evidence.
The court threw out charges that the murder had been premeditated, resulting in lighter sentences than those demanded by prosecutors.
"Overall, the judicial machinery has been ineffective in bringing police abuses to justice in the face of obstructiveness and failure to provide evidence by law enforcement agencies," Amnesty International said in a statement after the verdicts.The teenager`s mother Emel slammed the verdict as unduly lenient.
"I did not expect this. The people who killed a young 19 year-old boy do not deserve to benefit from any clemency."
A lawyer for the Korkmaz family, Ayhan Erdogan, blamed pressure from the president for the mild sentence.
"Justice was not done," he said. "We will appeal so the suspects are brought before trial again."
Speaking by video link from Ankara where he has been hospitalised, Saldogan insisted that he was innocent.
"I was the victim of a tragi-comic procedure," he said. "I was not at that place at the moment when the facts took place."
Ebubekir Harlar, who was sentenced to three years and four months, said the police had ordered him to seize Korkmaz.
"All I did was to carry out that order."
Korkmaz died after being pummelled with baseball bats and truncheons in one of the most notorious examples of police brutality in the protests.
He suffered a brain haemorrhage and died after 38 days in a coma.
He was one of eight people to have been killed in the three weeks of unrest sparked by plans to redevelop an Istanbul park that then grew into a nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan, then premier.
In September, a Turkish policeman was jailed for seven years and nine months for shooting dead 26-year-old Ethem Sarisuluk in Ankara during the 2013 protests.
While there is a handful of cases of police accused of killing demonstrators during the protests, thousands of people are being investigated for taking part in the rallies.
More than two dozen alleged leaders of Taksim Solidarity -- the main activist group behind the protests -- went on trial in June, also facing lengthy prison terms for their part in leading the protests.
Meanwhile, 25 supporters of Turkish top-flight football side Besiktas are on trial facing life imprisonment on charges of seeking to overthrow Erdogan`s government in the 2013 protests.
"The Turkish authorities must bring swift and just conclusion to the many hundreds of complaints (against police) that are still pending and bring all those responsible for human rights abuses to justice," said Amnesty.
It said that just one other trial into police violence causing the death of a protester is continuing -- the case of Abdullah Comert who was hit by a tear gas canister in the southern city of Antakya.