The case of a jeweler who is facing murder charges for shooting dead a fleeing thief has become a subject of intense debate in France.
Prosecutors have charged Stephan Turk, a 67-year-old jeweler from the Cote d’Azur, with murder for shooting 19-year-old Anthony Asli in the back as Asli and another alleged robber fled on a scooter with jewels allegedly stolen from Turk’s shop on September 11, reports the BBC.
The decision to prosecute Turk has caused intense debate in France, with many supporters arguing that he had a right to self-defense. A Facebook page has been set up in support of the jeweler and has garnered over 1.6 million likes, says the BBC.
There has been a series of high-profile jewelry thefts in southern France. A lone gunman in Cannes stole $136 million worth of jewels this summer. Christine Boquet, the president of the union of jewellers and watchmakers, said that merchants are living with fear and insecurity as the number of robberies climbs, reports the Independent.
French law allows killers to escape conviction for murder under the argument of “legitimate defense”. But Eric Bedos, the Nice prosecutor handling the case, said he is “convinced” that when Turk fired his unlicensed semi-automatic pistol for the third time at the fleeing robbers, his life was no longer in danger and he was shooting to kill, says the Independent.
In a statement to French television, Turk said that “armed, aggressive thugs attacked me.” He added: “I regret that he is dead. But it is him who decided to do what he did. It is normal that I would defend myself,” reports the BBC.
His son, Yan Turk, said that although he doesn’t endorse what his father did “he had been beaten and threatened with death” and had had enough of being targeted by robbers, says the Independent.
The sister of the dead teenager, Alexandra Asli, says Turk deserves prison for his actions. “He shot a kid in the back. He’s a traitor, he’s a coward,” the Independent reports Asli as saying.
President François Hollande, in a televised interview on French channel TF1, said on Sunday that “it’s up to the justice system to do justice, and no one else”, reports France 24.