Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, bolstered by their recapture of most of the opposition stronghold Idlib, attacked opposition hotbeds in different parts of Syria on Wednesday as the opposition began to show signs of fracture with the resignations of three prominent members of the Syrian National Council, or SNC.

On Tuesday, Syrian forces regained control over most of Idlib after a three-day operation that came soon after a similar offensive to dislodge the opposition from another key area that it had controlled -- the Baba Amr district in Homs. The two victories gave Assad's regime momentum as it tries to crush the armed opposition fighters a year after the unrest first started.

Assad is also bolstered by a pledge from ally Russia that it will continue to sell weapons to Syria, increasing prospects that Assad will not bow to the uprising and that Syria may be on the verge of a Balkan-style civil war that could continue for years. The latest signs of fracture on the side of the opposition have further exacerbated concerns over a prolonged civil war in Syria.

"I can no longer see myself inside the group because the leadership lacks clarity and does not treat the rest of the council democratically," said Haitham al-Maleh, a prominent rights campaigner who resigned from the SNC's three-person Executive Committee on Tuesday.

Maleh told Today's Zaman that he resigned because council leader Burhan Ghalioun has failed to discuss key decisions with the council and has been slow to extend support to the armed opposition that opposes Damascus on the ground. Maleh's resignation was joined by the departures of prominent members Kamal al-Labwani, a long-time Damascus opponent and leading figure in the SNC, and Catherine al-Talli, a Washington-based human rights lawyer, from the SNC this week.

A report by Reuters on Monday suggested that more resignations may follow, quoting an anonymous source within the SNC as saying that as many as 60 of the 270 member group may soon resign.

"The leadership does not want to play as a group," Maleh said. "Ghalioun did not consult other members of the group when he wrote his speech for the meeting of the 'Friends of the Syrian People' meeting in Tunisia, and he did not even tell other members of the council that he was going to meet with Kofi Annan in Ankara this week. The group is not a council, it is run like the Baath party."

The SNC has aspired, since its formation in September, to be seen as the legitimate voice of Syria's opposition movement, but the effort has been limited by infighting between the group's wide range of ethnic and political factions. Activists in Syria have claimed that the group's leadership, dominated by exiled dissidents, is not in tune with the anti-regime movement inside Syria. The SNC has found itself hard-pressed to woo Syria's diverse range of ethnic minorities, who have been favored for 42 years by the Assad family's Alawite-minority regime.

On Wednesday, Maleh dismissed the possibility that the SNC could become an effective platform for opposing the regime, and announced his plans to create a parallel group that would focus on delivering arms and money to the coalition of anti-Assad militias collectively known as the Free Syrian Army, or FSA.
The SNC's own decision to assist the armed opposition has been harshly criticized by the FSA itself, who declared that the FSA wanted "actions and not just talk."

Meanwhile, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan received Syrian response to a group of proposals Annan tabled and is due to brief the UN Security Council on Friday about his peace mission to Syria on Saturday.

Council diplomats say that Annan's assessment of the crisis will be crucial to a bid by the United States and its European allies to pass a resolution on Syria. Russia and China have already twice vetoed draft resolutions condemning Syria. Negotiations on a resolution are expected to accelerate after Annan's briefing, diplomats said.

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-274310-assad-regime-gains-momentum-as-opposition-shows-signs-of-division.html

Adopt A United Position Against Damascus, Davutoglu Says

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called on the international community to adopt a unified position to deal with the crisis in Syria, adding that Turkey will continue to be at the center of efforts on this issue.

"The recipe for ending the crisis should ideally originate from the region and be implemented with the support of the international community," Davutoğlu said in an interview with the Cairo Review on March 7. "The most effective way of dealing with the crisis in Syria is the adoption of a unified position by the international community as a whole. It will only be then that the [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] regime will finally comprehend that persisting in its current policies will only lead to more bloodshed and nothing else."

Turkey will sustain its efforts in cooperation with regional and international actors and to pave the ground for a political transformation process in the country, he said, adding that Turkey could not remain indifferent to incidents in Syria, which is not just a neighboring country.

"We have a common history, we share a very long land border and we are destined to live next to each other," he added.

Davutoğlu also denied having a neo-Ottomanism perspective in foreign policy, saying that Turkey did not want to be seen as a "role model" for countries in the region.

"Every country has its own unique characteristics. As Turkey, we do not want to present ourselves, or to be seen, as a role model," Davutoğlu said, responding to a question as to whether Turkey can be a model for Egypt's transition to democracy. "If needed, Turkey remains ready to share her own democratic experience with all interested countries."

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/adopt-a-united-position-against-damascus-davutoglu.aspx?pageID=238&nID=16068&NewsCatID=338

Two Turkish Journalists Missing In Chaotic Syria

The families and colleagues of two Turkish journalists who went missing in Syria four days ago called on the Turkish government Wednesday to help discover their whereabouts.

"We are worried about the lives of our colleagues, whose single purpose was to properly inform [people] about the incidents in Syria," Ali Adakoğlu, chief editor of the Istanbul-based Milat newspaper, told reporters in Istanbul Wednesday.

Adem Özkose, Middle East correspondent for the Gerçek Hayat magazine and columnist for Milat, and Hamit Coşkun, a cameraman, crossed into Syria from the southern province of Hatay last week.

The newspaper said it has not been in contact with the two journalists for four days. Özkose was last heard from on March 10, when he called from an area near the northern town of Idlib, which the Syrian army captured on Tuesday, Adakoğlu said, adding that they were seeking help from the Turkish Foreign Ministry to locate both.

The Turkish Embassy in Syria, as well as Ankara's consulates, is in contact with Syrian authorities to obtain information on the missing reporters, a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Families of the journalists gathered in front of the Foreign Ministry late Tuesday before moving on to the Syrian Embassy in Ankara to demand the safe return of the two.

Turkey is making efforts for the safe return of Özkose and Çoşkun, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters in Konya. He also requested that Turkish nationals be extra careful in visiting Syria.

Özköse has lived in Syria for five years, and returned to Turkey one year ago due to unrest in the conflict-hit country, Adakoğlu said, adding that the journalist was closely acquainted with leaders in the Syrian opposition.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials said Turkey was in contact with Iraqi authorities to release 25 Turkish workers arrested in Iraq. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad said it had sent a note to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry demanding the release of the detained workers.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/two-turkish-journalists-missing-in-chaotic-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=16060&NewsCatID=341

Turkey Getting Ready For Influx Of Migrants From Syria

Fifty thousand Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in Turkey, authorities said as a wave of migration from Syria into Turkey has already started.

In the Syrian province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, government forces reportedly continue to pound civilians. Turkish citizens who live in border villages say they can hear the bombs from across the border. Media outlets report that thousands of Syrians have been hiding near the Turkey-Syria border, which they are attempting to cross. In the last month, a total of 3,400 Syrians took shelter in Turkey, while 740 people entered Turkey on Tuesday night.

Accommodations are being established in Turkey's southern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. Currently, there are seven tent cities, in Hatay's Yayladağı, Reyhanlı and Altınözü districts. Hatay authorities said roughly 13,500 Syrians are taking shelter in these tent cities, and more such accommodation centers are needed to host more people. In a Reyhanlı tent city, an area for 100 more tents is being prepared. Although the capacity of the tent cities in Hatay is 25,000, more tents are needed because only Syrian soldiers who have deserted are being accepted in a separate tent city, Apaydın. Hatay authorities added the neighboring provinces will also share the responsibility of housing those who arrive from Syria.

A commission was formed by the Gaziantep Governor's Office to deal with the issue. Preparations are underway to establish a tent city in İslahiye district with the capacity to house 10,000 people. Gaziantep Governor Erdal Ata said the work to establish infrastructure and install electricity systems will be concluded in a week.

"We plan to set up 2,000 tents. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) will deliver blankets and tents," he said.

İslahiye was chosen as the location for the tent city because a railway between Turkey and Syria passes through the district. Compared to last year, more passengers are using the train services from Syria to arrive in İslahiye. According to data from Gaziantep railway officials, 7,825 passengers arrived in İslahiye from Syria in 2010, while this figure increased to 9,498 last year. Şanıurfa's Ceylanpınar district is another location that will host Syrians.

A 20,000-person-capacity accommodation center is being established on land owned by the Turkish General Directorate of Agricultural Enterprises, or TİGEM. A team formed by the Şanlıurfa Governor's Office has already begun working on the center's infrastructure. Of the Turkish provinces, Şanlıurfa shares the longest border line with Syria.

The Ceylanpınar border gate is currently closed, but it will be opened if needed. In Kilis, near the Öncüpınar border gate, another accommodation center is about to be completed. Kilis Governor Yusuf Odabaş said city officials have long been working on the center, on an area of 315,000 square meters. More than 2,000 containers have been sent by the Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate, or AFAD. The containers, in which a family of five can live, are 21 square meters and they can endure temperatures of -50 Celsius degrees. The center will host roughly 10,000 people.

"The Turkish government is providing the necessary support," Odabaş said.

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-274300-turkey-getting-ready-for-influx-of-migrants-from-syria.html

Turkey To Sue Iran Over Natural Gas Price

In the absence of an agreement over the price Turkey pays for Iranian natural gas, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız said the government is getting ready to sue the Middle Eastern country's administration in an international court of arbitration for a settlement that the two countries could not reach on their own.

Speaking to reporters in Kuwait on Wednesday, Yıldız said he was not suspicious of the Iranians' good intentions to resolve the matter bilaterally, yet Turkey remained with but one option after months-long discussions to that end proved futile.

"The road to arbitration is being paved on March 16, and we will not wait for too long after that to file our complaint," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Yıldız met with Iranian Petroleum Minister Rostam Qasemi on the sidelines of the 13th International Energy Forum, or IEF, held in Kuwait City on Tuesday and that marked the latest of official discussions over the price Iran charges Turkey for its natural gas. The preparations for an arbitration application were already under way, and it became clear at the two ministers' meeting that, in Yıldız's words, "There was nothing left to discuss."

"They told us that they had a legal excuse [for not lowering the price] rather than talking about if the price was appropriate or not. Iran is our second biggest natural gas supplier after Russia, and there is a price difference [between the two suppliers]," Yıldız said.

Of the natural gas that Turkey buys, Iran charges the most, and this is the main cause of rising tensions between the two countries. Turkey currently buys a cubic meter of Azerbaijani gas for $330 and pays Russia $400 for the same amount. However, Iran sells its gas to Turkey for $505 for each cubic meter, which increases Turkey's natural gas bill by an extra $800 million annually. The price of a cubic meter of natural gas is sold for $400 in international markets.

Although it has not been specified where Turkey is seeking arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce in Switzerland, which awarded Turkey $800 million in compensation in 2009 in a previous dispute with Iran, is the most likely place where the arbitration will be held.

At the end of last year, Turkey experienced a similar problem with another major gas provider: Russia. The Russian government agreed to lower the price of natural gas it sells after Turkey agreed to a key natural gas pipeline that will carry Russian gas to European markets via Turkey's territorial waters in the Black Sea.

High gas prices aside, Turkey, a net energy importer, is also facing challenges due to a much discussed "take or pay" condition that requires the country to import predetermined amounts of natural gas in almost all of its natural gas import agreements. According to the natural gas purchase contract between Turkey and Iran, Turkey has to buy at least 6.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Iran annually. This means Turkey has to pay Iran a specified amount of money irrespective of whether it needs that amount of natural gas. A similar situation exists for the supply of natural gas from Russia. Although the payments can be used in lieu of natural gas acquired in the future, there is a five-year limit after which the amount paid cannot be used to obtain natural gas. In a time of poor domestic natural gas consumption, the Turkish Pipeline Corporation, or BOTAŞ, is wondering whether it will be able to consume the (unused) natural gas it has paid for.

When asked if the dispute over the price of natural gas is likely to also have a negative impact on the two neighbors' relations at large, Yıldız said business and friendship are two different things that should not be confused.

"It is like the continuation of trade between two enlightened nations as they are also carrying out the arbitration process. This is pretty normal. We are good with them. Our business relations, trade are going on. Both the buyer and the seller are happy, but there is one problem. We are now trying to solve it without damaging the very business between us," he said. "Here, actually, I believe the Iranians acknowledge that reality [that a price arrangement to Turkey's benefit is necessary], but they are unable to do so because of certain limitations. That is, I cannot say they are ill-intentioned. This is why our relations are not affected. I believe they have good intentions, as they believe we do."

Turkey and Iran have a highly unbalanced trade. As of last year, the trade volume reached $16 billion, mostly from Iranian natural gas and oil proceeds. In addition to the one-third of natural gas it buys from overseas, Turkey imports some 30 percent of its oil needs from Iran, or 200,000 barrels per day, which represents over 7 percent of Iranian oil exports.

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-274244-turkey-to-sue-iran-over-natural-gas-price.html

Lawyers Want Ocalan To Be Heard In KCK Case

Lawyers under arrest in the ongoing Kurdish Communities' Union, or KCK, case have applied to the prosecutor's office to have Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, heard as a witness in the trial.

"[We] lawyers under arrest are accused of 'getting orders from Öcalan, transmitting the orders to the alleged [KCK] organization, leading to actions as a result of such orders and informing Öcalan about the results,'" the lawyers said in a petition to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office for the PKK leader to be heard in the trial. "As such, Abdullah Öcalan is the focus of the probe, and his testimony on the accusations will be crucial."

The lawyers also said Öcalan himself voiced a similar demand to be heard in the case in a letter sent Feb. 2.

Thirty-six of Öcalan's lawyers were arrested following police raids on Nov. 22, against the KCK. Öcalan's lawyers have long been under fire for allegedly acting as go-betweens to pass Öcalan's orders and instructions onto the PKK, but they have argued that all their meetings with the captive PKK leader took place under the supervision of the Justice Ministry and were recorded.
The lawyers have been unable to visit Öcalan since last July, on the grounds that the boats that take them to the prison island of İmralı are broken.

Aided by U.S. colleagues, Turkish undercover agents captured Öcalan in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999, after the militant leader was forced to leave the local Greek embassy, where he had been offered refuge while on the run. He was sentenced to death in June that year.

The sentence was later commuted to life in prison when Turkey abolished capital punishment as part of EU harmonization reforms.

The KCK is the alleged urban branch of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Since 2009, around 700 people have been arrested over their alleged links to the KCK, according to government figures, although the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, puts the figure at more than 3,500.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/lawyers-want-ocalan-to-be-heard-in-kck-case.aspx?pageID=238&nID=16064&NewsCatID=339

'Parliament Oversight On Executive Branch Dysfunctional'

Opposition parties have accused the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, of ignoring parliamentary inquiries, thereby undermining the balance of powers and the highest body that serves to represent the nation.

The opposition claims that parliamentary oversight over new legislation being proposed by the government has become dysfunctional during the current 24th parliamentary period. They point to the government's low record of responses given to parliamentary queries submitted to the Parliament Speaker's Office, demanding a response from government members.

The questions were either completely disregarded or were given evasive answers by government members, opposition members have complained.

Republican People's Party, or CHP, Konya Deputy Atilla Kart, a prominent jurist in the party, said Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has to take the initiative in order to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament.

"Some answers given to our parliamentary questions lack seriousness. I do not want to be unfair to ministers who are taking the parliamentary questions very seriously, but some ministers answer the questions carelessly, as if they just want to satisfy their egos by acting in an arrogant manner and giving irrelevant answers. I can provide many examples of this. In order to prevent this, the parliament speaker has to take the initiative," Çiçek told Today's Zaman.

Commenting on the issue, Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Mehmet Şandır noted that although they appreciate that some ministers have given comprehensive answers to parliamentary questions, most others were non-serious in their approach toward the question motions, which reduces the quality of lawmaking in Parliament.

Şandır also complained about the ruling party's obstinacy in going solo in passing new legislation.

"The government refuses contributions from the opposition to the legislative process. Passing new legislation without consensus on issues reduces the quality of Parliament's legislation work," he said. "Bills that are not well-prepared, or drafted without an all-inclusive consensus, cause harsh debates in Parliament."

Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Hasip Kaplan also voiced his party's uneasiness about carelessly answered parliamentary questions.

"Some ministers give single-sentence answers that state, 'The legislative work on this issue is continuing,' to our parliamentary questions on serious issues," he lamented. Kaplan pointed out that some ministers prefer to refer the questions to the bureaucrats in their ministries instead of answering them personally.

Parliamentary Questions In Numbers

Parliament has already seen a number of question motions in its 24th term, the current legislative season. From June 12, when the 24th term started, to the end of the year, deputies submitted 3,165 question motions, including 758 questions in non-written form to the Parliament Speaker's Office. During the first two months of 2012, the total number of parliamentary questions reached 5,841.

The number of question motions that remain unanswered provides valid reason for the opposition's complaints. While the government answered 3,429 of a total 5,590 questions in the previous term, Parliament's 23rd session before the 2009 elections, in the current term it has answered only 1,627 of a total 5,841 questions during the first legislative year.

The figures, current as of March 8, show clearly that the government has slowed down its work in responding to inquiries from opposition parties.

AKP Denies Allegations

When asked to comment by Today's Zaman, AKP parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Mahir Ünal denied claims that oversight regarding new legislation has been rendered ineffective. He pointed at the record before the AKP came to power.

"On the contrary, the AK Party is working to ensure the more efficient functioning of Parliament. When the figures from the 18th and 19th terms of Parliament are compared with the figures from the 23rd and 24th parliamentary periods, this will be more visible," Ünal said, underlining that the AKP has made the necessary arrangements to ensure written questions are referred to the relevant ministries as soon as possible.

Saying that the AKP puts great importance on the proper functioning of parliamentary oversight over legislation, Ünal denied the opposition's claims that the answers given to the parliamentary question are unsubstantial.

"Why would a government that has made the necessary arrangements in order to increase the number of questions answered by the government make them devoid of meaning? In the 18th term, 1,255 oral questions were asked, and only 98 of them were answered. In other words, only 7.8 percent of them were answered," he said. "During the 22nd term of Parliament, when the AK Party came to power for the first time, this figure increased to 42 percent. And in the 23rd term, 72 percent of the oral questions were answered. The number of oral parliamentary questions doubled, and the rate of oral questions answered has increased by 1,000 percent compared to the 18th term of Parliament. That is why it's unfair to blame the AK Party for undermining parliamentary oversight over legislation."

Ünal's statement, however, failed to explain the sharp increase in the number of queries that went unanswered in the current legislative term in comparison with the previous term.

http://haber.gazetevatan.com/o-kiblesi-donmus-bir-basbakan/436773/9/Siyaset

Religious-Based Politics Harm Faith, Gul Says

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has warned Muslim countries against seeking religious-based politics, saying parties that promise such rule would ultimately harm the faith.

If a political party that comes out in the name of Islam fails, it will defame and humiliate the religion itself, Gül told a Tunisian television channel.

"If one comes forward, saying one is 'religious' and then fails, what will be harmed? Thus, one has more responsibility [to be wise]. Furthermore, policy should not be conducted based on religion," he said. "If religion directly becomes a tool for politics, which would hurt religion a lot. Because of this, Turkey does not have religious parties."

The statements echo previous comments from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who advised Egyptians last September to not fear secularism.

"I suggest that Egypt should have a secular constitution, because secularity is not an enemy of religion," Erdoğan said in Cairo. "Do not fear secularity. I hope the new regime in Egypt will be a secular one."

Gül also advised Muslim countries to adopt democracy, accountability and transparency, saying democracy and Islam did not contradict each other.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/gul-religious-based-politics-harm-faith.aspx?pageID=238&nID=16043&NewsCatID=338

New Trial Hope For Sivas Massacre

The European Court of Human Rights does not accept the statute of limitations in crimes such as the Sivas Massacre, a Turkish judge at the Strasbourg-based court said after an Ankara court invoked the statute Tuesday in dropping the case.

The comments by Judge Işıl Karakaş come as Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç signaled that a probe could be launched against then-state officials accused of negligence in the 1993 massacre. The European court does not tend to invoke the statute of limitations in cases that involve the violation of the right to life, Karakaş said.

Noting that other cases in which police forces and security officers in Turkey have also previously been dropped due to the statute of limitations, Karakaş said her court was against such decisions.

Meanwhile, Arınç said civil servants who served during the massacre, including then-Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Sivas Mayor Ahmet Karabilgin, could be put on trial on charges of negligence.

"[Those killed in Sivas] were our dearest souls, they were our people. I wish all the perpetrators had been put on trial and fined but the court decided to drop the case due to the statute of limitations. According to the verdict, the court dropped the case because the perpetrators were not public officials. Then I can say that the officials who had negligence in the incident can be put on trial," Arınç said Wenesday in Istanbul.

Deputy Prime Minister Hüseyin Çelik also responded to criticisms that lawyers for the suspects in the massacre were now deputies for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, saying the "right of defense is sacred."

"Is the lawyer who defends a murderer also a murderer himself? When this horrible incident took place, the AKP was not even conceived. For the first time in the Turkish Republic's history, Alevism made an entry into the school books in my ministry's term. A dark power is trying to sow discord among Alevis and Sunnis over this case," Çelik said.

Çelik also criticized the opposition parties and media, saying they had been misleading society.

"The image is as if everyone who was on trial was released; that is not the truth. Some 79 people were charged in the case while 40 were released at the beginning," Çelik said, adding that Turkey would no longer experience problems with statutes of limitations after new legal amendments are implemented in two years.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, a lawyer by profession, also expressed his sorrow over Tuesday's decision, the Doğan news agency reported.

"It was a crime against humanity. After the court's verdict to drop the case, public sensitivities were damaged. We do not want to see such cases dropped again due to the statute of limitations," Günay said.
Some 33 intellectuals and two hotel workers died when radical Islamists attacked a hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas that was hosting an Alevi festival on July 2, 1993.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/new-trial-hope-for-sivas-massacre.aspx?pageID=238&nID=16065&NewsCatID=341

Deputy Prime Minister Calls For Trial Of Public Officials Over Sivas Massacre

Amid country-wide outrage over a court decision to drop a nearly two-decade-long trial regarding the death of 33 artists and intellectuals, along with two hotel workers and two assailants, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said public officials of the time who are suspected of negligence in the incident may be investigated.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, one day after an Ankara court announced that the Madımak case was being dropped as the statute of limitations had expired, Arınç said the trial of high-level public officials in charge at the time is more important than the trial of the assailants.

"An investigation may be launched into public officials of the time who are thought to be at fault in this massacre-like incident. For me, the investigation of the [Sivas] governor, interior minister, members of the government at the time, those who somehow had a role in how the incident ended up and the trial of those who indirectly caused the incident is more important than this [dropped] trial," he said. "So, I personally think it would be useful if our prosecutors investigate these claims."

On July 2, 1993, 37 people were killed inside the Madımak Hotel in Sivas when an angry mob set the building on fire. Seven of the suspects have been at large, but two of them, Cafer Erçakmak and Yılmaz Bağ, have been confirmed dead. The other five walked free on Tuesday when the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court decided to drop the case on the grounds that too much time had passed.

The court also said the cases against suspects Erçakmak and Bağ were dropped due to the fact that the two defendants had died, while the cases against Şevket Erdoğan, Köksal Koçak, İhsan Çakmak, Hakan Karaca and Necmi Karaömeroğlu were dropped on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired.

Presiding Judge Dündar Örsdemir, when reading the verdict, said he agreed with arguments that the statute of limitations should not apply to crimes against humanity, but added that the offenders were not public or civil agencies. "Hence the decision to drop the cases," he said.

Arınç also referred to recent remarks by former Sivas deputy Ziya Halis, who said he believes the interior minister, prime minister and deputy minister of the time displayed negligence in preventing the incident.

"I also know that whenever the Madımak incident comes onto the agenda, claims emerge that the governor of the time and bureaucrats in Ankara remained indifferent to the incident, regarded the incident as a simple one and blatantly were responsible for those people burning to death in the hotel. It is possible for this aspect of the case to open a new page," he added.

Supreme Court of Appeals President Nazım Kaynak also commented on the case being dropped on Wednesday, underscoring that the trial is still ongoing as the appeals process has not yet been completed.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said that as a Turkish citizen he "feels deep regret" over the case being dropped.

"The judiciary is shaking the public's faith in the law by causing such cases to be dropped instead of concluding them in a way that pleases both the public and co-plaintiffs," he said.

http://haber.gazetevatan.com/akpden-sivas-tepkisi/436868/1/Gundem

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