Turkey court fines Somali president’s son for car crash that killed courier

Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s sentence was commuted to a fine of about $900.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud [File: Feisal Omar/Reuters]

A court in Turkey has convicted the son of Somalia’s president for the death of a motorcycle courier, but commuted his sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison to a fine.

Prosecutors had requested that Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the son of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, be sentenced to up to six years in prison.

On Tuesday, the Istanbul court fined him 27,300 Turkish lira ($900), state media reported. Mohamud was not present in court. His driver’s licence was also revoked for six months.

Mohamud was charged with “causing death by negligence” after a diplomatic car he was driving hit courier Yunus Emre Gocer in Istanbul on November 30.

An arrest warrant was issued for Mohamud after Gocer died six days later, but the president’s son had already left Turkey on December 2.

Mohamud reportedly returned to Turkey last week to testify. The arrest warrant and a travel ban imposed on him were revoked after he gave a statement to court officials, and was then released, the DHA news agency reported.

He denied negligence, saying that the motorbike stopped suddenly and that the crash had been unavoidable.

The police report, however, said that Gocer, a father of two, did not violate any traffic rules and that the car driver was primarily at fault.

Gocer’s father was planning to appeal the decision to commute the sentence, his lawyer Tugba Aydin told reporters after the hearing.

“The life of a motorcycle courier cannot be worth 27,000 Turkish lira when the other side is 75 percent at fault,” said Mesut Ceki of the Courier Rights Association. “So what happened? Is this justice?”

Prison sentences are occasionally converted to fines in Turkey’s judicial system.

Gocer’s death had threatened to sour friendly relations between Turkey and Somalia.

The Somali president said last month that his son, who is a doctor, did not flee Turkey and that he had told him to present himself to court.

“Turkey is a brotherly country,” the president had 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.”

Turkey has sought to increase its footprint in Somalia in the past decade and is the Horn of Africa nation’s leading economic partner, particularly in the areas of construction, education and health.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies