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Mothers of Cypriot earthquake dead meet Turkish justice minister

Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc
Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc (right) meets Rusen Yucesoylu Karakaya during his visit to Cyprus in December

The mothers of two Cypriot children who were killed in last year’s earthquakes in Turkey met with Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc on Wednesday.

Rusen Yucesoylu Karakaya and Pervin Ipekcioglu, whose daughters Selin and Serin were among 24 Cypriot children and 11 Cypriot adults killed when the Isias hotel in the Turkish city of Adiyaman collapsed in February 2023, met Tunc in Ankara ahead of the resumption of the trial of those held responsible for the hotel’s collapse.

Speaking after the meeting, Karakaya said “we lost our children, our lives, our most precious ones. We have been fighting for justice for 14 months … We are continuing to fight for justice for all the families.”

She added that she had informed Tunc about the latest developments regarding the case and said that he is “already very knowledgeable” about it and is closely following the case.

Yilmaz himself came to Cyprus and visited our children and those we lost and expressed his condolences to us. His meeting with us today is important to us, for Cypriots. Our fight for justice will continue until the end,” she said.

She added that the Isias case has the potential to “set a precedent”, and that “the murderers will pay the price for us losing our children.”

“We will continue our fight to ensure that everyone responsible, anyone who made mistakes or acted out of line in the construction of this hotel, receives the heaviest punishment,” she said.

Pervin Ipekcioglu said, “of course, we are all in one voice, shoulder to shoulder, and we repeated our desire for justice. There is an avalanche of will for justice in Cyprus. We will always repeat our demand for justice, and this must be fulfilled because Cyprus lost its future at the Isias hotel.”

Tunc did not speak publicly after the meeting, but during his visit to Cyprus in December had said that “while the pain is still in our hearts, we are continuing to work to ensure there are no deficiencies or disruptions in the trial process” of those held responsible.

“Your sensitivity is our sensitivity. We will follow this until the end,” he said, adding that he had been “hurt very deeply” by the Cypriot children’s deaths.

The trial of a total of 11 people who have been held responsible for the Isias hotel’s collapse is set to resume in Adiyaman on April 26, with the court having most recently convened in January.

All 11 defendants, including the hotel’s owner Ahmet Bozkurt and his two sons Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt and Efe Bozkurt, deny all wrongdoing. They stand accused of “causing death by conscious negligence”, and, if found guilty, could be jailed for up to 22 and a half years each.

However, the families of those killed and the entire Turkish Cypriot political spectrum have demanded that those charges be upgraded to charges of intentionally killing those inside the hotel.

Thousands of people, including Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and multiple members of the north’s cabinet, gathered in Famagusta in November to protest for the charges to be upgraded.

Another such protest is planned for Friday in Nicosia, with people set to march from northern Nicosia’s bus station to the Turkish Embassy.

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