December 13, 2011 / 1:53 PM / 8 years ago

Turkey convicts policeman for Nigerian's manslaughter

ISTANBUL, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A Turkish policeman was found guilty on Tuesday of the involuntary manslaughter of a Nigerian asylum-seeker in police custody more than four years ago, in a case that had drawn criticism of the EU-candidate’s legal processes.

Human rights groups condemned the bureaucratic obstacles that held up the trial into the death of Festus Okey, who was shot after being detained at an Istanbul police station in August 2007.

The Istanbul court sentenced Cengiz Yildiz to four years and two months in prison. Yildiz would have faced a life sentence if found guilty of murdering Okey, one of thousands of African refugees living in Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul.

Stenciled portraits in memory of the slain Nigerian are still spray-painted on some streets and alleys of Istanbul.

He was taken into custody on charges of drugs possession and died from a gunshot wound at the central Beyoglu station. The bullet was fired from Yildiz’s gun while Okey was being questioned in what the officer said was an accident.

The case was complicated by the absence of security camera footage and by the disappearance of the shirt which Okey was wearing at the time.

Okey was not represented by a lawyer in the case due to a dispute over his identity.

In its 2011 progress report on Turkey, the European Union criticised the persistence of a “consistent lack of thorough independent investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings by security and law enforcement officers”.

It pointed to slow progress in the Okey case and criticised the absence of an independent police complaints mechanism.

“Law enforcement officers found guilty of torture, ill-treatment or fatal shootings received short or suspended sentences,” the report said. (Writing by Ece Toksabay)

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