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Isias hotel defendants ‘should look us in the eye’

funeral for turkish cypriot high school students, victims in a deadly earthquake in turkey, in famagusta
Coffins of Turkish Cypriot high school students, victims in a deadly earthquake in Turkey

The defendants in the trial regarding the collapse of the Isias hotel in Adiyaman, Turkey where 24 Cypriot children were killed “should look us in the eye”, father of one of the children killed Ihsan Nurluoz said on Sunday.

Nurluoz, whose son Izcan was part of the Famagusta Turk Maarif Koleji school volleyball team which became known as the “Champion Angels”, spoke alongside three of the other fathers of team members to the Turkish Agency Cyprus (Tak) on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake which prompted the hotel’s collapse.

He expressed disappointment that a number of the defendants appeared in court via video link rather than being physically present in the courtroom in Adiyaman when the trial began at the beginning of January.

“The fact that the defendants were not there was something that shocked us at first. We would have expected them to be there. I would like them to talk while looking into our eyes, to establish eye contact,” he said.

“When our lawyers ask a question, I would like them to answer by looking at them. I would like to see them there”, he said.

He reiterated the parents’ position that all 11 defendants should be tried for intentionally killing the children and emphasised the importance of media and public pressure to make that happen.

With this in mind, he said he believes evidence to that end will be developed and spoken about in court at the next hearing in April.

Speaking about his emotions at the first round of hearings, he said “we experienced anger, disappointment, despair, all kinds of emotions there. It was very tiring that it lasted for four days.”

He noted, however, that the fact the first round of hearings only took four days rather than longer, as is customary, is a positive.

“This will make it easier to finalise this case as soon as possible,” he said.

Mehmet Tulek, whose daughter Asya was also killed in the earthquake’s collapse, explained that he and other parents had visited Adiyaman to see the wreckage of the hotel.

“We were in the wreckage, we know what is what. It is truly painful to struggle with this. It is very tiring to have to explain something we can see clearly,” he said.

He added his belief that those responsible for the hotel’s collapse “will receive very severe punishment,” while also chastising the defendants’ attitude to the case.

“We saw what kind of character the other party had, and we are glad we did. I can fight [for this case] very easily right now because we know they have no conscience.”

“At times, I did wonder, ‘did this happen by accident?’, but those thoughts have been erased now. Those before us are very unscrupulous, very heartless. There were bare-faced lies being told there,” he said.

He added that some of the defendants were “talking nonsense” and that the ordeal was “very hurtful”.

“The court probably also observed what liars, how dishonest, and how unscrupulous the other party was. The criminal elements there are already very clear, they are also present in the expert reports,” he said.

He also spoke about the pain of having the event recalled in court, saying “we experienced the same pain over and over again.”

Yasar Kemal Gencalioglu, whose daughter Hayal was also among those killed, said “everything is obvious. Expert reports, samples taken later, and so on. We want these to be taken into detail and no detail to be missed.”

He added that the case had now been kept on the public agenda for a year and said this had been achieved “as a result of unity and solidarity in Cyprus.”

He also expressed his will for the defendants to be tried for intentionally killing the children, saying “if there is such a stipulation in Turkish law, this case is the most obvious case for which it can be used.”

Recep Kilic, whose daughter Havin was also among those killed, criticised the “casual attitude” of the hotel’s owners, the Bozkurt family, three of whom are currently in custody over the case.

“They acted on a fiction created by their lawyers,” he said.

He also said that while giving his own testimony in court, he had asked for the screen size to be enlarged so that he could see the defendants’ faces.

Speaking of their next steps, the four fathers said they have no plans for themselves, and their “only goal from now on is to achieve justice for our children, and to make positive contributions to education and children.”

Mehmet Tulek said, “we do not have any plans for ourselves from now on. We want to do, at least in part, what our children cannot. Our children were truly precious children. We are fighting for them.”

We still cannot believe we lost our children. We are fighting for them,” he said.

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