Hundreds gathered in Famagusta on Thursday afternoon to demand justice for the 24 Turkish Cypriot children who were killed when the hotel they were staying in in Turkey collapsed during February’s earthquakes.

The protesters gathered in front of the Famagusta Turk Maarif Koleji (TMK) school, where the 24 children studied, holding tiki torches, saying they wished to “shine a light on justice”, before marching to the Famagusta cemetery.

Among those marching were Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar, multiple members of the ‘government’ including ‘education minister’ Nazim Cavusoglu and ‘deputy prime minister’ Fikri Ataoglu.

They demand that those responsible for the collapse of the Isias hotel in Adiyaman, where the children were staying, be charged with intentionally killing all 24 Cypriot children and 42 others including teaching staff.

At present, the Adiyaman chief public prosecutor’s office has prepared indictment papers to accuse those responsible of conscious negligence, a much less severe crime in Turkish law. Should those responsible be found guilty of conscious negligence, they could be released in as few as seven years.

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Protesters gathered in front of the Famagusta Turk Maarif Koleji school

Calls for those responsible to be tried for intentionally killing the children have come from as high up as the north’s ‘government’, with ‘transport minister’ Erhan Arikli saying on Sunday that “the fact that the people who committed that murder … will be released in 10 to 12 years cannot be called an exemplary punishment.”

Serdar Denktash, son of late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, came to the same conclusion, saying “there is a very serious difference between these two concepts. There must be a case filed in the Isias case based on intent, as requested by the families of the children who were killed.”

Opposition party CTP Leader Tufan Erhurman, too, called for those responsible to be tried for intentionally killing the children, following consultation with lawyer Pervin Aksoy, whose daughter Serin was among those killed.

He knew Aksoy personally from his time as a law professor at the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Famagusta, and said “Pervin says ‘possible intent’. So do many criminal lawyers, and the grieving families of those who lost their children. Wherever I look, I see possible intent, not negligence.”

In her own statements, Aksoy had said “are 66 lives only worth 22 and a half years?”

“You stole everything from us, our whole life is over. Everything has been shattered, our lives are lost, how can you think of getting away with such a light punishment? Don’t even try to imagine how I feel, longing for my daughter for a lifetime, pursuing you for a lifetime, everywhere, all the time,” she added.

Cigdem Sabanci, whose son Mustafa was also among those killed, called on the public to back their calls for those responsible to be tried with killing intentionally, saying “do not be silent, do not forget, do not forgive!”

Safiye Cevik, whose daughter Nehir was also among those killed, said “whoever is responsible and signed off on the Isias, you are to blame for what happened. You will be tried for killing with intent, justice will be served.”

Scientific reports into the hotel building revealed that sand and gravel from a river had been used to construct it, and that a whole floor had been added to the top of the building without the relevant licences being obtained.

A previous report had showed that supporting columns at the hotel had been “cut”.

Following the release of that report, Oguzhan Hasipoglu, chairman of the north’s political affairs ‘parliamentary’ committee, told the families of those killed that “we always said a murder was committed at the Isias hotel.”