Noyan Tapan

New testimony on Friday revealed that the death of a Turkish-Armenian
soldier who was fatally shot on April 24 was racially motivated,
reported the Sabah newspaper.

After Private Sevag Sahin Balikci was shot on April 24 last year,
other members of this unit, stationed in Batman province, and other
officers testified that Balıkci was shot accidentally when he was
"joking around" with a close friend, Kivanc Agaoglu.

However, according to the story published in the Sabah daily on Friday,
one of the privates who witnessed the incident changed his testimony,
which will likely change the course of Agaoglu's trial.

According to Sabah, the revised testimony was given in December by
Halil Eksi, who served in the Turkish Army at the same time as Balikci.

"Kıvanc pointed his rifle at Sevag and pulled the trigger. His
family had asked me to testify in his favor," Eksi said indicating
that Agaoglu's family pressured him into giving false testimony.

"I was told by suspect Kivanc and his family, especially his
uncle, to testify in his favor. On the day of the incident, we were
installing chain-link fencing around the station under orders from our
commanders. As we did our work, at some point, Kivanc Agaoglu unlocked
his rifle's safety and directed it at our other friend Sevag Sahin.

And he fired the rifle. Sevag Sahin was wounded. I do not know why
Kivanc fired at Sevag," testified Eksi.

After the publication of the report, the Second Air Force Command
Military Tribunal in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır ruled
to hold the trial immediately rather than in March as witness Eksi
altered his testimony.

"The witnesses were freed from pressure when they were discharged
[from military service]. Perhaps they are doing some soul-searching.

It is hard to tell," lawyer Cem Halavurt, who represents Balıkci's
family in court, told the Hurriyet Daily News.

"We are going to file a criminal complaint about Agaoglu's sister and
uncle and open a new lawsuit. Kıvanc runs the risk of getting arrested
in this trial, and that is what we are going to request," Halavurt
said, adding that Friday's hearing was going to be a critical one.

The witness could change his testimony yet again, Halavurt said,
adding that they were determined to take the case to the European
Court of Human Rights if the matter cannot be resolved in Turkey.

"It would not be right to connect or draw a parallel between the
cases of [Balıkcı and murdered Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant
Dink]. The common point of intersection between the two cases, however,
is that they are both racially motivated murders," said Halavurt,
who also represented the Dink family in court.