By Chris Thompson
A Turkish court on Tuesday convicted the son of Somalia’s president over the death of a motorcycle courier and sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in prison. The sentence, however, was immediately commuted to a fine.
Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was charged with “causing death by negligence” after a diplomatic car he was driving hit Yunus Emre Gocer on a highway in Istanbul on Nov. 30. An arrest warrant was issued for Mohamud after Gocer died six days later, but the president’s son had already left Turkey.
Mohamud reportedly returned to Turkey last week to testify about the accident. The arrest warrant and a travel ban imposed on Mohamud were revoked after he gave a statement to court officials, and was then released, the DHA news agency reported.
On Tuesday, the Istanbul court convicted Mohamud, who was not present, of the charge of negligent death and ruled that he be fined 27,300 Turkish lira ($910). His driver’s license was revoked for six months.
Prosecutors had requested that Mohamud be sentenced to up to six years in prison.
Gocer’s father was planning to appeal the decision to commute the sentence, his lawyer Tugba Aydin told reporters after the hearing.
An association fighting for the rights of motorized couriers also criticized the court’s ruling.
The life of a motorcycle courier cannot be worth 27,000 Turkish lira when the other side is 75% at fault,” said Mesut Ceki of the Courier Rights Association. “So what happened? Is this justice?”
The motorcyclist’s death had threatened to sour friendly relations between Turkey and Somalia. Turkey launched an investigation into officials who conducted the initial crash investigation and reportedly allowed Mohamud to go free.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told The Associated Press last month that his 40-year-old son, who is a doctor, did not flee Turkey and said he had advised him to present himself to court.
“Turkey is a brotherly country,” the president said. “We respect the laws and the justice and the judicial system. As a president of Somalia, I will never allow anybody to violate this country’s judicial system.”
Turkish authorities have built close ties with Somalia since 2011, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — then prime minister — visited the East African nation that suffered from severe drought. Turkey has since provided humanitarian aid, built infrastructure and opened a military base in Somalia where it has trained officers and police.