ANKARA - Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds protesting on Tuesday after a court dropped a case against five people charged with killing 37 writers and liberals in a 1993 hotel fire set by Islamist rioters.
The five have never been found and the opposition blamed Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party, which emerged from a series of banned Islamist parties, for a failure to launch a serious search.
"Some of the killers got married, did their military service, held weddings, sent their children to school, but could not be found," main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu told his parliamentary party. "The AK Party is responsible for the failure to find the perpetrators of the Sivas massacre."
The judge at the Ankara court hearing ruled that the 1993 killings did not amount to crimes against humanity and therefore the statute of limitations applied as more than 15 years had passed.
"The administrative organs have made all the efforts they can in this case," Turkish media quoted Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin as saying in reaction to the verdict.
Kilicdaroglu said a number of the lawyers for the accused were AK Party parliamentarians.