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Turkey: Somali president's son flees country after killing motorcyclist

Source tells MEE that Ankara is troubled by how Turkish police officers handled the case but for now has avoided criticising Mogadishu
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during the US-Africa Leaders Summit 2022, 13 December (AP)
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during the US-Africa Leaders Summit 13 December 2022 (AP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The Somali president's son has left Turkey after killing a Turkish motorcycle courier in a crash in Istanbul, triggering public fury and protests by the city's mayor.

Turkish media reported that Mohamed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's son, hit 36-year-old Yunus Emre Gocer with a diplomatic car registered with Somalia's embassy on 30 November near the Aksaray neighbourhood.

Gocer was taken to a nearby hospital unconscious and placed in intensive care.

An Istanbul prosecutor launched an official investigation against Mohamud, asked police to take his testimony and ordered his subsequent release.

Mohamud argued in his testimony that the courier suddenly stopped on the road and wasn't wearing a helmet, resulting in the accident.

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Footage of the incident indeed shows that the motorbike suddenly slowed down, but Mohamud's car was still seen speeding. The video shows Gocer was wearing a helmet, but it fell off following the crash.

Iyaz Cimen, a lawyer representing Gocer, told the media that he petitioned the prosecutor to impose measures to prevent Mohamud from leaving the country, but to no avail.

Gocer succumbed to his injuries on 6 December.

The next day, an expert filed a report to the court, concluding that Gocer slowed to a stop while driving on the far right of the road, steering the wheel towards the hard shoulder on the right side. However, the report said Mohamud did not slow down and hit the motorbike from behind, concluding that the Somali president's son was primarily at fault.

The Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office issued an arrest warrant on 8 December based on this report. But authorities discovered that Mohamud had escaped to Somalia on a flight six days earlier.

Cimen, the lawyer, said the police should have held Mohamud until his client was out of intensive care.

"The police in its initial report said my client was the primarily responsible for the crash. That's why they thought they could release the motorist, as he wouldn't face charges that carry a prison time," he said. "That was wrong."

Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul who belongs to the main opposition party, said on Friday that the incident showed that the Turkish government was too weak to defend the rights of its own citizens in its own country.

A source familiar with the Turkish government's thinking on the incident told Middle East Eye that the government was deeply bothered by how the case had been handled and that Mohamud was allowed to leave.

The Istanbul chief prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into the police officers who drafted the initial report that said Mohamud was not at fault.

It said it was also investigating reports that claimed the police officers told the courier's family that he died by suicide.

"The launch of an official investigation against the police officers is a testament to the government's displeasure on the handling of the accidents," the source added. "If the footage of the accident had not surfaced, probably no senior official would have known what really went down."

The Somali presidency has so far avoided releasing any comment on the issue.

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Omer Faruk Gok, an Istanbul-based lawyer with experience on international law, told MEE that Mohamud should have stayed in Turkey and faced a trial.

"The law makes it crystal clear that Mohamud has to face the charges unless he was registered with the embassy as a diplomat and on a diplomatic mission," Gok said. "He could have also participated in a visit by his father to Turkey, which might have granted him immunity. Neither of those are the case."

The Turkish media published an ID allegedly belonging to Mohamud, indicating that he obtained a two-year residency in the country in 2022 on humanitarian grounds, suggesting that he was not registered as a diplomat.

Kani Torun, former ambassador to Mogadishu and now an opposition MP, said the incident was causing bad publicity for Somalia.

"This is not right for you, as a devout Muslim, and for Somalia as bad publicity," he said, addressing the Somali president.

"Please send your son to court for legal proceedings and compensate the victim's family."

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