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Turkey expects Somali President's son to return, face trial over fatal traffic accident


Friday December 15, 2023


Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at U.N. headquarters on Dec. 12, 2023

WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL — Turkey’s justice minister announced Thursday that Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s son is expected to return to Turkey to face trial over a fatal traffic accident in Istanbul.

Yilmaz Tunc, Turkey’s justice minister, told reporters that Ankara held talks with Somali judicial authorities over extraditing Mohamed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

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“In the coming days, the defendant will come to Turkey, and the trial process will take place,” Tunc said.

Accident

On November 30, Mohamud hit Yunus Emre Gocer, a motorcycle courier in the Fatih district of Istanbul, while driving a vehicle with a diplomatic license plate. The 38-year-old victim was immediately taken to the hospital, where he died on December 6.

According to police documents that VOA Turkish obtained, after providing testimony, Mohamud was released on the same day of the accident per an Istanbul prosecutor’s instructions.

In a press statement last Friday, the Istanbul prosecutor’s office announced that following Gocer’s death, it issued a detention order for Mohamud accusing him of involuntary manslaughter, but he had already left the country on December 2.

The prosecutor’s office said an arrest warrant for Mohamud was issued on December 8.

Iyaz Cimen, the lawyer for Gocer’s family, says the Somali president’s son was allowed to leave Turkey due to “a chain of negligence.”

“We went to the police station on the evening of the accident day where [the police] ignored us. We requested detention at the prosecutor’s office for eight days from November 30 to December 7. [Mohamud] was not arrested, and in fact, any judicial control, including a travel ban, was not placed,” Cimen told VOA.

On the other hand, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his son did not flee Turkey and stayed in Istanbul for several days after the crash.

“It was an accident. He did not run away, and he hired a lawyer for this purpose,” the Somali president said. “And there was no arrest warrant. … So, he has a business, and he came out of the country.”

Mohamud added that he is advising his son to present himself to the Turkish court, noting that his son is an adult and “the decision is his — but I am giving that advice.”

The Somali president also extended his condolences to Gocer’s family.

Investigation

Ankara has launched an investigation of the police officers who conducted the crime scene investigation and wrote the initial police report, Tunc posted on social media on Monday.

Also on Monday, a Somali diplomat in Turkey, who requested anonymity, told The Associated Press that Mohamud has since traveled to Dubai. He added that the Somali president’s family travels with diplomatic passports and previously lived in Turkey.

On Tuesday, a Turkish official told Reuters that Ankara sought information from Somali authorities on the incident and the use of a diplomatic car.

“Someone who does not have diplomatic status has no right to use these vehicles,” the official told Reuters. According to the official, as the Somali president’s son does not enjoy “immunity or diplomatic exceptionality,” and it makes no difference that he was driving a vehicle with a diplomatic plate.

VOA contacted Turkey’s justice and foreign ministries but did not receive a response.

Tunc has not disclosed Mohamud’s whereabouts but has noted that there is no mutual legal assistance treaty between Somalia and Turkey.

“However, these are issues that can be achieved within the framework of bilateral relations,” Tunc said.

“We expect that the suspect will actively participate in the trial process amid its return to Turkey and that the family’s damage here will be remedied,” Cimen, the Gocer family’s lawyer, told VOA.

The accident has stirred controversy in Turkey over the police and judicial system.

Ozgur Ozel, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, visited Gocer’s family on Tuesday and said, “If any citizen committed this crime or were involved in this accident, that person would be detained, interrogated, arrested, and if that person were not arrested, a travel ban would be imposed. Everyone knows this.

“But when [that person] is the son of a foreign statesman, what kind of privilege is this? What kind of public administration is this? What kind of justice is this?” Ozel added.

Ankara has built close ties with Mogadishu, as it is part of the Somalia “Quint” group alongside the United States, United Kingdom, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, which was formed to ensure security and counterterrorism support for the African country. The last Quint meeting was held in Ankara in October.

Turkey has its largest overseas military base in Somalia, where it trains Somali forces. In 2016, Erdogan opened the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu, which he called “the largest Turkish embassy in the world.”

Turkish companies are active in the country for many development projects as Turkish state-run Ziraat bank opened a branch in Mogadishu in October 2023 and became the first foreign bank to operate in Somalia in over a half-century.

Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters. This story originated in VOA’s Turkish Service, and VOA Somali contributed to this report.



 





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