The son of Somalia’s president was convicted in an Istanbul courtroom but spared jail time over a collision that killed a motorcycle courier in the city, in a case that has drawn anger and demands for justice across Turkey.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was handed a 2.5-year sentence on Tuesday which was commuted to a fine of 27,300 Turkish Liras ($910 USD) after he accepted the charge of “reckless killing” for fatally striking Yunus Emre Gocer, a married father of two, in late November, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber.
The case initially sparked controversy in Turkey after Mohamud left the country following the deadly incident, prompting criticism of perceived inaction by police and prosecutors. An arrest warrant for Mohamud was dropped when he returned to Turkey in order to give a statement in court on Friday, according to TRT.
Mohamud was not required to be in court on Tuesday when the verdict in the case was read. He was originally handed a 3-year prison sentence, which was decreased to 2.5 years for “good conduct,” according to TRT. According to Turkish penal code, the court can opt to convert a sentence of that length to a fine, which it did, sparing Mohamud any prison time. His driver’s license will also be cancelled for six months, according to TRT.
Iyaz Cimen, the lawyer representing Gocer’s family, told CNN that his clients had agreed to drop their formal complaint against Mohamud. He would not say what, if any, deal with Mohamud prompted that decision, or whether the family would be financially compensated.
Mohamud’s case is one of two incidents involving the sons of prominent foreign officials that have raised questions about fairness in the justice system. In December, there was a second collision allegedly involving the son of a former Yemeni defense minister, who police say hit two pedestrians. One of the victims was seriously injured.
The two cases have no direct connection to one another, beyond the coincidental timing, and the harsh public spotlight cast on both – especially after early missteps and discrepancies by police and prosecutors in the first.
According to Turkish police, 40-year-old Mohamud, the son of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was behind the wheel of a black BMW with diplomatic plates in southwest Istanbul when it struck Gocer, a delivery driver on a scooter, on November 30.
According to a statement from the prosecutor, Gocer died on December 6 and “therefore the nature of the crime changed” from the charge of “reckless injury” to “reckless killing.” Two days later, an arrest warrant was issued.
Cimen, the lawyer representing Gocer’s family, told CNN in December that Mohamud had left the country on December 2, before the warrant was issued.
Cimen had previously told CNN that the initial police report suggested the victim had made an illegal lane change, but only after public scrutiny, and after the victim died and the charge became more serious, did a subsequent report cast doubt on the initial police assessment of what happened. That second report, written by independent experts, says that the “primarily negligent party” was Mohamud.
A third report, meant to resolve discrepancies between the initial police report and the subsequent expert report, produced a more mixed result. Published December 18 by the Traffic Specialization Department of the Forensic Medicine Institute, it affirmed that Mohamud was “primarily at fault,” but also found that Gocer was also “secondarily at fault.” The report says that Gocer was in front of Mohamud in the second-to-right lane, while Mohamud was behind in the right lane.
Gocer slowed to change lanes to the right, and that’s when he was hit. It blames Mohamud for failing to hit the brakes and slow down, but it also blames Gocer for failing to adequately check his mirrors to see Mohamud behind him and slowing to a stop on a road with a speed limit of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour.
The perceived initial failings quickly led to public outrage, with motorcycle drivers and couriers staging a protest in December calling for justice for Gocer.
Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, said in December that he was glad the prosecutor’s office had issued the arrest warrant. The mayor had written on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the prosecutor’s office would need to explain discrepancies between the initial police report and the latest statement “which allowed the suspect to flee abroad.”
CNN reached out to the Somali consulate for comment in December but did not receive a response. In an interview with the Associated Press published December 14, the Somali president denied that his son had fled the country, saying that he left because he had business elsewhere and there was no arrest warrant for him. President Mohamud told the AP he was sorry for Gocer’s family for his loss, and said that he has advised his son to go back to Turkey for court proceedings. “The decision is his — but I am giving that advice,” he said.
At the time, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported that Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc told reporters in Ankara he had personally spoken with the Somali justice minister.
“In the coming days, the defendant will come to Turkey and participate in the trial process,” he said, according to Anadolu. “”We will never allow any of our citizens to lose their rights and legal interests in favor of a foreigner. We will follow the incident to the end. We will work for justice to prevail.”
In the second, separate incident in early December in central Istanbul, Musaeed Ahmed Musaeed Hussein, the son of Yemen’s former Defense Minister Ahmed Musaeed Hussein, was behind the wheel of a vehicle that hit two people as they were crossing the street, according to the statement Hussein gave to prosecutors.
One of them was a 71-year-old named Pakize Ozer, who was seriously injured, according to CNN Turk. “The complainant suddenly appeared in front of me. Since the sun was coming from the opposite direction, I didn’t see exactly where she was coming from,” he said in his statement to prosecutors. In that report he said that Ozer was not in a pedestrian crosswalk and he denied that he was at fault.
Hussein’s father was in the passenger seat at the time. CNN Turk reported in December that Ozer was in hospital in life-threatening condition, but Hussein’s lawyer, Kerim Bahadır Seker, now says that she has since left hospital. He says his client is currently under house arrest and a travel ban prevents him from leaving the country.
Last month, he told CNN Turk that his client was not speeding or under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the collision.
Grainy videos purportedly showing security camera footage of each crash have been widely broadcast on Turkish media, which has heavily covered both incidents.
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