Somalia’s president says his son didn’t flee fatal accident in Turkey and should return to court

Somalia’s president says his son didn’t flee Turkey after he was involved in a fatal highway crash in Istanbul, and adds that he has advised his son to go back and present himself to court, which has issued an arrest warrant.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in an interview with The Associated Press that his 40-year-old son, who is a doctor, stayed at the scene of the crash and remained in Istanbul for several days afterward.

“It was an accident. He did not run away, and he hired a lawyer for this purpose,” the president said. “And there was no arrest warrant. … So, he has a business and he came out of the country.”

Yunus Emre Gocer, a 38-year-old motorcycle courier, died in a hospital Dec. 6, six days after he was hit by a car driven by the president’s son, Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, on a busy highway in Istanbul.

Turkish authorities ordered president’s son arrested and barred him from traveling abroad following the motorcyclist’s death, but reports said the younger Mohamud had already left Turkey by the time the warrant was issued.

“He still is linked to the country, and I am talking to him to go back and presenting himself to the court,” the president said. But his son is an adult and “the decision is his — but I am giving that advice,” he added.

The president extended his sympathy to Gocer’s family.

“I want to take this opportunity to send my condolences to the family, which I don’t know how to contact,” he said in Tuesday’s interview. “We share with them the grief of their loss. We are sorry for their loss.”

On Sunday, dozens of people, including motorcycle courier groups, staged a demonstration in Istanbul demanding that the son face trial for Gocer’s death.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul and a prominent opposition politician, tweeted a security camera video of the crash. He claimed the “suspect left Turkey with his hands free” and accused the government of “being too weak to defend the rights of its own citizens.”

Responding to the pressure, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said without elaborating that “international procedures” had been initiated concerning the crash.

“Regardless of their title, everyone is equal before the law and the entire process for the capture of the suspect — including the international procedure — is being carried out meticulously,” Tunc tweeted Sunday.

Separately, Tunc said that an investigation was also launched into police officers who conducted an initial investigation into the collision and allegedly allowed Mohamud to go free.

On Monday, a Somali diplomat in Turkey told The Associated Pressthat the car driven by the president’s son is owned by the Somali Embassy. The president’s family travels with diplomatic passports and had previously lived in Turkey, said the official, who agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name.

Turkey has built close ties with Somalia since 2011, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — then prime minister — visited the East African nation in a show of support as Somalis suffereed from severe drought. Turkey has provided humanitarian aid, built infrastructure and opened a military base in Somalia where it has trained officers and police.

“I will do everything that I can to make sure that my son respects Turkish law and justice law, and stands in front of the courts in Turkey,” Somalia’s president said in the interview at U.N. headquarters, where he presented a plan for his government to take over security from African Union troops and continue its fight against al-Shabab militants.

“Turkey is a brotherly country,” Mohamud 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.”

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