Witness Says Police Beat Journalist

AFYON–Turkey (Reuter)–A witness in a controversial Turkish murder case Thursday identified policemen defendants as the officers he had seen beating leftist journalist Metin Goktepe who later died of his wounds.

"I saw eight or ten policemen beating him. Goktepe fainted but they carried on beating him," witness Deniz Ozcan told the court in the Western town of Afyon.

Ozcan said eight of the 11 police defendants present in the tense courtroom had beaten Goktepe–who was found dead from blows to the head hours later.

Goktepe was one of scores of people rounded up for identity checks in January 1996 after the funerals of two left-wing prisoners.

Another witness said police had beaten many people in the sports hall to which the detainees had been taken. "Everyone was being hit," Ali Ekber Palabiyik said.

A defense lawyer described the witnesses’ testimony as "lies." No official plea is needed under Turkish law.

Allegations of police torture and brutality in Turkey are common but convictions rare. The charges cause friction between Turkey and its Western allies.

The hearing took place under heavy security with human rights protesters encamped outside the court chanting and waving banners.

The case has been delayed after being transferred to different provinces from Istanbul for what officials described as security reasons. Rights activists say the moves were part of attempts to keep the case out of the public eye.

The court adjourned until its next hearing in November and decided to stage a reconstruction of the events leading to Goktepe’s death.

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