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Turkiye under pressure to seek return of Somalia president's son involved in fatal traffic crash

FILE - Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud looks on during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit 2022, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in Washington. The Turkish government is facing mounting pressure to seek the return of the Somali president's son, who allegedly fled Turkey after causing a fatal traffic crash in Istanbul. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP) FILE - Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud looks on during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit 2022, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in Washington. The Turkish government is facing mounting pressure to seek the return of the Somali president's son, who allegedly fled Turkey after causing a fatal traffic crash in Istanbul. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)
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ANKARA, Turkey -

The Turkish government is facing mounting pressure to seek the return of the Somali president's son, who allegedly fled Turkiye after causing a fatal traffic crash in Istanbul.

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

Turkish authorities ordered Mohamud arrested and barred him from travelling abroad following the motorcyclist's death, but reports said the Somali president's son had already left Turkiye by the time the warrant was issued.

On Sunday, dozens of people, including motorcycle courier groups, staged a demonstration in Istanbul demanding that Mohamud 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, claiming that the "suspect left Turkiye with his hands free," and accusing 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 on 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.

There was no immediate information on Mohamud's whereabouts, and officials in Somalia haven't commented on the incident.

On Monday, a Somali diplomat in Turkiye told The Associated Press that the president's son took the severely injured victim to a hospital after the crash. He later travelled to Dubai, according to the diplomat.

The diplomat, who requested anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak to the media on the matter, said that the car is owned by the Somali Embassy. The president's family travels with diplomatic passports and had previously lived in Turkiye, according to the official.

In Somalia, Mogadishu resident Ibrahim Hassan expressed concerns that the fatal collision could harm ties with Turkiye and adversely affect Somalis living in Turkiye.

"There may be consequences for the Somali community living in Turkiye and members of the Somali business community," he said. "The fear is that if President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud fails to send his son back to Turkiye to face justice, it could strain the relationship between the two nations."

Turkiye 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 for the country, which was suffering from severe drought. Turkiye has provided humanitarian aid, built infrastructure and opened a military base in Somalia where it has trained officers and police.

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Omar Faruk contributed to this report from Mogadishu, Somalia.

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