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Turkish trial of Russian ambassador killing starts

January 8, 2019

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead at an exhibition in Ankara in December 2016. The gunman was shot dead but the trial of 28 suspects, including US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, has started.

Flowers for the Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov outside the foreign ministry in Moscow
Flowers for the Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov outside the foreign ministry in MoscowImage: picture-alliance/dpa/epa/S. Ilnitsky

The indictment presented by the Ankara prosecutor on Tuesday charged 16 of the suspects with "premeditated murder with the intention of causing terror" and 12 others with "being a member of a terror organisation."

Off-duty 22-year-old Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas shot dead the 62-year-old Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in December 2016. He shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and "Don't forget Aleppo," in reference to Russia's role in Syria before he was killed by members of the Turkish special forces.

The prosecution is seeking aggravated life sentences for those convicted. These confine prisoners to rooms for one person and one hour open air or sports each day. For those convicted of terrorism, there is no parole.

Fethullah Gulen at his home in Pennsylvania, USA
Fethullah Gulen at his home in Pennsylvania, USAImage: Reuters/C. Mostoller

A Gulen link suspected

Among the accused is Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Islamic preacher and opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara blames Gulen for the July 2016 coup attempt. 

Of the accused, some are in pre-trial detention, others are on conditional release and six are being tried in absentia. One of the absentees, Gulen, denies links to both the failed coup and the murder of Karlov.

Suspect denials

Two 26-year-old suspects who attended the same police academy as the shooter Alintas appeared in court on Tuesday and insisted they had no links to the Gulen organization, which the Turkish government calls the "Fetullah Terrorist Organization." Bilal Dereli said he only knew the shooter Altintas by his face.

"I got into police school on the third attempt," Dereli said "If I had a link [to Gulen], I would have immediately been successful."

Another accused Dogukan Soylemez, a classmate of Altintas and a former security officer for the health minister, insisted he had no links with Gulen either during his time at school or in his working life.

Erdogan links assassin to Gulen movement

jm/msh (AFP, dpa)

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