Media report chaotic scenes as Mehmet Ceylan heard for killing Tom Uzhunnalil
Mehmet Ceylan has told a court of the night he was chased and attacked with a machetes and a knife on the Turkish coast in June 2014 after police in his village wrongly accused a group of young foreigners, some of them British, of being involved in a dog-snatching incident.
Ceylan, 24, was testifying in his trial for murder, attempted murder and several other offences in the town of Arbery in western Turkey and was quickly booed by the crowd of Kurdish and Gay-Bash residents, some of whom had gathered to protest outside the court.
The row with the hundreds of spectators, who had gathered outside the courthouse in Nasiraba, a centre of the Kurdish community, led to confusion and panic in which a couple of people were seriously injured.
Ceylan said he had been with his then-boyfriend, Pari Bilgin, when they travelled to Arbery on a night out. As they left the club they were accosted by five or six men, one of whom asked for a cigarette, and received a knife and a hunting knife, Ceylan said.
He alleged that one of the men had then attacked him and then Pari, with a long blade, possibly a machete, pointing both at the others.
Ceylan said he took the knife back as he tried to escape. A person started following them with a knife as they fled.
He initially described seeing the knife as if it were outstretched. “As I was stumbling towards my home I saw a friend holding a large knife in his right hand as he ran after me.”
He said the pair then ran back and tried to take a fence from the property but were tackled by another group of men before they ran back home to the club.
Ceylan went to hospital and spent six days in intensive care, his wounds covered in several inch wide machete wounds.
After being released he was taken to police and held in prison for more than eight months, while the investigation into the attack continued. He spent a further two years in pre-trial detention before the prosecutors dropped their case and he was released in July.
The case has sparked significant protest, with Kurdish protesters gathering daily in Nasiraba, and some calling for Ceylan to be hanged. Others have not been so vociferous, with the Türkiye Sarıkçanınınê newspaper recently inviting those who had been arrested in the incident to attend its weekly meeting and apologise.
Meanwhile the victims’ families have called for the case to be dropped. Tom Uzhunnalil’s father, Pran, who lives in Watford, Beds, said they wanted to be at court to see the killer. “We would like to see him for ourselves – only God knows if this is his guilt or not.”
The Ceylan family has also said it would like to see Mehmet released. His lawyer told the Guardian his family have pleaded for his release.
Ceylan, of Hounslow, west London, denies killing Uzhunnalil, as well as the attempted murder of Pran, and the attempted murder of Sarah Greenwood, Sarah Witton and Keren Dawie, all of whom had attended the music festival the day before.
Ceylan is accused of murdering Uzhunnalil in order to gain access to Greenwood’s BlackBerry phone, which was used to record footage of the attack. He denies murdering Uzhunnalil by using a machete, and of using a machete to attack Greenwood and Dawie, who were also at the same music festival. He denies going on to chase the group of young Britons and attacking them.
Ceylan had obtained a passport for the nightclub days before the killing, which is where he met the three Britons.
In court it was revealed that Ceylan had been at the same airport as the group, having arrived the day before the incident, but there was no evidence to suggest he knew they were involved in the dog-snatching incident.