Turkish court rejects initial indictment in Diril case. Family lawyer says perpetrators are being protected

MEHRE/ŞIRNAK, Turkey – The retired Syriac-Chaldean Diril couple disappeared on January 7, 2020. Shmuni Diril was found murdered nearby their village in March 2020. Hurmuz Diril has not been heard from and seen since. In the investigation of the unsolved disappearance and murder case of Hurmuz and Shmuni Diril, the First High Criminal Court in Şirnak has dismissed the initial indictment submitted by the prosecutor’s office earlier this month as insufficient. The indictment came only after 2 years and after much public pressure and insistence.

The court’s decision proved all suspicions of the Diril family and their lawyer correct. In comments to reporter Marta Sömek of Syriac newspaper Gazete Sabro, human rights activist and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz called the proceedings “a big legal scandal”, adding that “the perpetrators are clearly being protected. It is an example of a policy of legal impunity.” Lawyer Cengiz is outraged about the slow progress in the investigation and the inaction and stalling by judicial authorities. The whole process of investigation and legal proceedings is like “digging a well with a needle” as the prosecution keeps appealing to the confidentiality order in the case.

The family lawyer was not informed about the dismissal of the indictment and had to learn of it only after own inquiry. Cengiz made the following comments on the recent legal proceedings: “They told us that the indictment was submitted to the court on January 4. The legal processing time is 15 days, so it would normally expire on January 19. It is not possible to lawfully dismiss the indictment after this deadline.  But, today, the First High Criminal Court notified us that ‘it was submitted to us on January 5.’ There is suspicion even there.”

Cengiz complains that he and the family still have not been adequately informed about the developments in the file; “In a criminal file with such grave violations of human rights, it is very painful that such a weak indictment is prepared that it can be rejected by the court. I have petitioned many times and also sent them to Turkish Parliament and the Human Rights Commission. I also wrote to the magistrate’s court.”

“The perpetrators of this crime are being protected!”

With reference to the confidentiality order in the file, Cengiz said; “If you are trying to conduct a criminal case in secret for more than two years, the reason is clearly to hide the mistakes and inefficacies. They are keeping us busy. It is very clear that the perpetrators are being protected. There is a policy of impunity.” The court’s rejection of the indictment, Cengiz said, “was on the grounds that it did not contain the correct sections of a formal indictment and that the crime was not well defined. That’s how they have been keeping us busy for two years.”

Cengiz also touched on the multiple arrests and releases of Apro Diril, a relative of the Syriac-Chaldean Diril couple and the only eyewitness in the case; “Why was he arrested. And if there is evidence at hand, then why was he released again. This criminal case is deliberately intended to be left unpunished. It has been like this since the start. With today’s decision, it has reached the level of scandal. There is a big legal scandal here,” he commented. “They keep the file secret to hide their shortcomings. Because if the file were open and accessible, lawyers and bar associations and the public would see and understand what has and what has not been investigated and followed up in this criminal case. They came up with a confidentiality order to prevent this.”

Cengiz underlines that so far there has been no effective search for Hurmuz Diril. The prosecutor’s office told the lawyer that the investigation was conducted in secret because ‘the defendants should not learn anything’, but that in reality nothing was done about the investigation. “We are past death. There is one person missing. These proceedings need to be carried out urgently. A human being has been missing for two years.” The Diril family and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz have not yet seen the dismissed indictment but have indicated that they will appeal the court’s ruling and continue to monitor the proceedings closely.