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Isias hotel owner to remain in custody, next trial hearing set for April (Updated)

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File photo: Rescue workers at the Isias hotel where 35 Turkish Cypriots died

Ahmet Bozkurt, the owner of the Isias hotel in the Turkish city of Adiyaman, and his two sons Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt and Efe Bozkurt, saw their applications for release rejected on Saturday evening.

The hotel had collapsed during the earthquakes which struck southeastern Turkey last February and killed 35 Cypriots including 24 children.

The trio had requested that they be released pending their next trial hearing, with Ahmet Bozkurt citing fears for his own safety and scheduled surgical procedures.

However, their applications were rejected by the court, and they will now remain in custody until the next hearing of the trial, which is scheduled to take place on April 26.

They will all also be brought to court in person by court in April.

During a tense the fourth day of the trial over the Isias hotel’s collapse, Ahmet Bozkurt had earlier denied all wrongdoing..

The Bozkurt trio and eight others stand accused of “causing death by conscious negligence”, and, if found guilty, could be jailed for up to 22 and a half years.

Speaking at Adiyaman’s third High criminal court, Ahmet Bozkurt maintained his innocence, saying “the only culprit is the earthquake”.

“I do not accept any of the accusations made against myself or my children. I did my job properly. If there had been no earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7, my building would not have collapsed. My building could have withstood an earthquake of a magnitude up to 7.2, in accordance with regulations,” he said.

He added, “If only the Isias had collapsed, I would have gone into the rubble and killed myself. I made no mistakes. 850,000 buildings collapsed in the earthquake, more than 52,000 people died.”

“I experienced the pain of the earthquake. 300 people from my family lost their lives. I was also injured during the earthquake. I am 73 years old,” he said.

Questions had been raised over why Bozkurt swiftly departed Adiyaman shortly after the earthquake, and he attempted to answer them.

“On the day of the earthquake, there was no water, and no place to stay. At first, I said I would not leave here, but then I went to Aksaray on the request of my family,” he said.

“I didn’t run away,” he said, pointing out that he had later surrendered himself to the authorities once a warrant had been put out for his arrest.

He also tried to appeal to the sympathies of the prosecutor and judge, pointing out the increased level of protection he requires under detention in prison in Kirsehir.

He added, “due to my age, I am occasionally referred to the Kirsehir State hospital by the doctor. When I go to the hospital, there are many other prisoners beside me, and they do not know me.”

“I have never said this before because I do not want my children to be afraid. Now I am saying this for the first time. They say, ‘I do not know what we would do with the Isias hotel owners if they gave them to us. I heard this with my own ears and witnessed it with my own eyes. We have no life security,” he said.

Moving back to the matter of the trial, he said “we are not guilty, I reject all the slanders thrown our way. I have nothing to say to the families [of those who were killed in his hotel].”

Citing security issues and the fact he requires surgeries, he requested that he be released from custody.

Meanwhile, Celal Nuri Demirturk, lawyer of Bozkurt’s son Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt, said that the fact that the fact that his client had signed the request for a zoning amnesty regarding the hotel’s illegal extra floor did not mean he was guilty.

He also upset the Cypriot contingent by dismissing the idea of family members of those killed acting as witnesses in the case.

“We do not accept the Cypriots’ requests to participate as witnesses, and this is not legally appropriate … Clients’ feelings should not take precedence over the law. We are saddened by our colleagues’ attitudes towards the court,” he said.

Five other defendants requested that they be immediately acquitted, with some giving reasons as to why they fled Adiyaman in the hours and days following the earthquake, and others saying they had seldom, if ever, been to Adiyaman in the last 30 years.

Following the conclusion of the relevant statements, the public prosecutor requested that the six defendants who are currently being held in custody remain detained but rejected lawyers’ requests that the other five also be detained.

Giving his reasoning, he said that due to the earthquake, there are not enough spaces in prisons for the other defendants to be housed.

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