He Killed a Man. Turks Wonder Why a Well-Connected Somali Went Free.


First he was allowed to leave Turkey after he hit a motorcycle courier with his car in November. Then the police blamed the courier, who later died in the hospital, before reversing course.

Finally, on Tuesday, the driver of the car, the son of Somalia’s leader, was convicted of “causing death by negligence” and given a prison sentence that was quickly commuted to a fine of 27,300 Turkish lira, or about $900.

Widespread perceptions that the driver, Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, 40, a doctor, repeatedly received preferential treatment from the authorities have prompted outrage in Turkey and accusations that justice was denied to the courier, Yunus Emre Gocer, 38, a father of two young children.

Many Turks speculated on social media that Mr. Mohamud had been treated differently because of his father’s position and vented about the unusually swift judicial process. Similar cases typically take 18 months to two years, legal experts say.

“Everything went differently in this case, as the person behind the wheel was in a position of power,” said Mesut Ceki, the head of Courier Rights Association, which represents motorcyclist delivery drivers like Mr. Gocer. “This is impunity. Our lives are worth only 27,300 lira — this is how I feel.”

In his conviction by a Turkish court on Tuesday, Mr. Mohamud, whose father is President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, was initially handed a sentence of three years. But that was lowered to two and a half years before being commuted to the fine, payable in 10 installments.

In softening the sentence, the court cited Mr. Mohamud’s educational and social background, as well as the regret it said he expressed about the episode and his good behavior during the judicial process.

The defendant did not attend the hearing. Mr. Mohamud left Turkey after the crash and returned only briefly to testify before the trial started, according to the judicial authorities. After he testified, the court revoked the arrest warrant that had been issued for him and exempted him from attending the trial.

Turkey has strong military, diplomatic and humanitarian ties with Somalia. Turkey has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian and development aid to Somalia since 2011, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

President Mohamud told The Associated Press last month that his son did not flee Turkey but left because of his business and that he had advised him to present himself to the Turkish authorities.

Mr. Mohamud was driving a car with a diplomatic license plate at the time of the crash in November. A forensic report in December found him to be chiefly responsible for the crash.

The wife of the motorcyclist who was killed, Oznur Gocer, told Turkish news media that her husband used to be a long-distance truck driver and that he became a motorcycle courier to provide for the needs of his two children, one of whom is autistic.

Before the trial, Ms. Gocer filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Mohamud, as well as against police officers and prosecutors whom she accused of having been negligent in the investigation. An initial police report from the scene placed the responsibility on Mr. Gocer, saying that he had lost control of his motorcycle, hit the pavement and fallen in front of a car. Mr. Mohamud, who was driving the car, was unable to stop before hitting him, the report said.

Security camera footage showing the motorbike being hit by the car, however, appeared to disprove that, causing an uproar from fellow motorcycle couriers and opposition politicians.

Ms. Gocer withdrew her complaint two days after it was announced that she had received a condolence call from Somalia’s president. Turkey’s justice minister said on Tuesday that the dropping of the complaint was a factor that led to a lighter sentence, according to Turkish news media.

“This is just an accident with extremely saddening consequence,” Seyda Yildirim, Mr. Mohamud’s lawyer, told the court, according to the Demiroren news agency. “My client did his best to heal the pain,” she said. “We believe we succeeded in that.”

Tolga Kubilay Celik, a trade union activist who works with couriers, was also at the hearing.

“The wife’s decision to drop her complaint hushed the courier community,” he said. “The defendant is high-profile and everyone believes he pulled strings, which scared people off.”

Turkey became increasingly authoritarian under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a failed but deadly coup in 2016, and critics say that this has undermined the rule of law and judicial independence.





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