Celebrities call for justice for Isias Hotel victims and families as trial into deaths deferred to April

A host of celebrities, including singers Robbie Williams and Haluk Levent and actors Tamer Hassan and John Hannah, have publicly backed the families of Isias Hotel victims, demanding answers as to why the hotel collapsed and justice for the victims as the trial into their deaths got underway in Turkiye.

A total of 72 people were killed, including a school party of 35 Turkish Cypriots, when Isias Hotel in Adıyaman, where they were staying, collapsed following two massive earthquakes that struck Turkiye on 6 February 2023.

The school party comprised of two volleyball teams of boys and girls from Gazimağusa Türk Maarif Koleji, their teachers, and some parents and siblings who had accompanied them to Adıyaman for a major schools volleyball tournament last year. The children were aged between 11 and 14 years old.

Their accommodation had been on the second and fourth floors of the 10-storey hotel, which completely crumpled after the earthquake struck leaving the school party buried under the rubble.

Despite the Turkish Cypriot government sending equipment and a rescue team to Adıyaman to help locate survivors, efforts to find the school party quickly turned to despair, with just four of the 39 being pulled out alive.

The owner of Isias Hotel Ahmet Bozkurt and his two sons, Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt and Efe Bozkurt, are among a group of 11 people who are standing trial accused of causing the 72 deaths through negligence by using inferior building materials and failing to adhere to planning regulations in the construction of the hotel.

The prosecution is demanding sentences ranging from 32 months to over 22 years for the 11 defendants and their varying roles in ‘causing the death and injury of more than one person through conscious negligence’. The court started to hear their testimony via video link on 3 January, with Ahmet Bozkurt rejecting all the charges against him, claiming the huge earthquake was solely to blame for the collapsed hotel.

“The disaster of the century occurred,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying in his defence on the opening day of the trial last Wednesday. “My hotel was destroyed, just like 850,000 other constructions.”

Star support for Champion Angels

Rock star and philanthropist Haluk Levent, whose charity Ahbap [‘Friend’] was at the forefront of the Turkish earthquake relief mission, came to the Adıyaman courthouse on the first day of the trial to show solidarity with the families of the victims.

Speaking to media outside Adıyaman’s 3rd High Criminal Court, Levent said he will continue to stand with the families in their quest for justice and will be ‘following the case closely’.

Other celebrities released short video clips asking why Isias Hotel had collapsed while also demanding justice for the victims and families. The clips have been widely shared on social media including on the Şampiyon Melekleri Yaşatma Derneği [Association to Keep Champion Angels Alive) channels, which was formed by the families and their supporters.

One of the surprising supporters came from British pop superstar Robbie Williams, whose hit singles include Angels and Rock DJ.

In his 15-second clip, the father of four looks straight into the cameras and says: “I’m Robbie Williams and I have a question. Why was Isias hotel demolished? We want justice. We want justice for our children and our Angels Champion Team.”


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A post shared by Tamer Hassan (@realtamerhassan)

A similar message was recorded and released by Scottish actor John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Mummy trilogy) and British Turkish Cypriot actor Tamer Hassan (Football Factory, The Business).

Families testify

Day 2 of the preliminary hearing at 3rd High Criminal Court was devoted to testimony from the parents of the children and their lawyers, who presented a snapshot of the considerable evidence collected about the hotel and its construction, and the impact the deaths have had on families.

Among those who testified on Thursday was Osman Akın, a gym teacher from North Cyprus, who lost two of his sons in the hotel rubble. He had stayed in a teachers lodge in neighbouring Kahramanmaraş, where some of the volleyball games were. In his testimony, Akın said:

“If I had stayed in the same hotel, I wouldn’t be here. I stayed at the teachers’ guesthouse in Kahramanmaraş. It was a major earthquake but that building didn’t collapse. I stayed in a building where human life is valued.

“We left the building without anyone even getting a scratch. Adıyaman collapsed, my world collapsed. There was chaos, and we walked a kilometre to bring the children to a safe area. Then I headed to Adıyaman. I could only come on Tuesday after the earthquake. The scene I saw was just a pile of sand. 72 lives were lost in that hotel.”


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A post shared by Jaie Southern-petty (@jaiepetty)

Sefer Aydoğdu, who lost her child, also demanded the harshest punishment for the defendants.

İrem Aydoğdu, the sister of the deceased İmran Aydoğdu, said, “My brother drowned in a pile of sand; we are no longer alive. These children were the bright faces of Cyprus, the pride of their country. Not only us but all of Cyprus was affected.”

Court adjourned

The preliminary hearing, which ran for four days, before being deferred to April. The Adiyaman 3rd Heavy Penal Court announced its interim decision before adjourning, confirming that five of the 11 defendants, Ahmet Bozkurt, Efe Bozkurt, Erdem Yildiz, Halil Bagci, and Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt, would remain in custody. The other six defendants were released from remand to be tried under court supervision.

The court accepted the expert report prepared by Karadeniz Technical University into the collapse of Isias Hotel, which was to be examined by other experts, who will prepare a fresh expert report before the next hearing on 26 April.

Defendents could continue to participate via video link, while families who joined the case as complainants, will continue their involvement in the trial. The court, however, rejected the Turkish Cypriot state to become a party to the proceedings.

The Isias Hotel trial is the first relating to the powerful 7.8 earthquake that hit Adıyaman and 10 other provinces in southern Turkiye last year, killing over 50,000 people and displacing millions more.