Turkey trial to open into Russian ambassador’s 2016 killing

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Mevlut Mert Altintas, an off-duty policeman, shouts after shooting Andrei Karlov, right, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)
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Andrei Karlov, then Russian Ambassador to Turkey, pauses during a speech at a photo exhibition in Ankara, moments before Mevlut Mert Altintas, seen background left, opened fire on him and killed him. (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Turkey trial to open into Russian ambassador’s 2016 killing

  • Andrei Karlov, 62, was shot dead by an off-duty Turkish policeman at a photo exhibition in Ankara on December 19, 2016
  • The 22-year-old gunman, Mevlut Mert Altintas, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Don’t forget Aleppo”

ANKARA: Twenty eight suspects were due to go on trial Tuesday over the assassination of the Russian ambassador two year ago, including a US-based Muslim preacher blamed by Ankara for a failed coup the same year.
Andrei Karlov, 62, was shot dead by an off-duty Turkish policeman at a photo exhibition in Ankara on December 19, 2016, in a shock attack that was captured on camera by photographers attending the event.
The 22-year-old gunman, Mevlut Mert Altintas, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Don’t forget Aleppo,” vowing that those responsible for events in Syria would be held accountable.
Altintas was killed shortly after by members of the Turkish special forces.
The Ankara prosecutor has charged 16 of the suspects with “premeditated murder with the intention of causing terror,” according to the indictment. The other 12 were charged with “being a member of a terror organization.”
Thirteen are currently in pre-trial detention, while it is prosecuting others in absentia.
Those not in Turkey include Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic preacher seen as an arch foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and who Ankara blames for the July 2016 coup attempt.
Gulen has denied links to both the failed coup and the murder.
Turkish officials have alleged that Gulen’s movement organized the murder of Karlov, a married father-of-one, to sow “chaos.”
Turkey refers to the organization as the “Fetullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO) but followers say it is peaceful, promoting secular education.
Another of the suspects named is Serif Ali Tekalan, who headed a university linked to Gulen in Istanbul and now heads the Texas-based North American University (NAU).
The prosecutor is seeking a variety of penalties for the suspects, including aggravated life sentences, which have replaced the death penalty in Turkey and carry harsher conditions than normal life imprisonment convictions.
The indictment says the Gulen movement plotted the murder of Karlov, who had been appointed as ambassador in 2013, to “break off bilateral relations” between Turkey and Russia and bring them to the brink of “hot war.”
The Kremlin had previously warned against rushing to any assumptions.
Although Moscow does not repeat the Gulen claims, Selim Koru, a Black Sea Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute think tank noted in a report late last year that Russia sent investigators and “if they had different findings, they didn’t say.”
Turkey and Russia had a dramatic falling out in November 2015 after a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane along the Syrian border.
But by the summer of 2016 relations had improved, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan keen to show they are working together to find a solution to the Syrian conflict despite being on opposing sides of the war.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen since 2016 in a crackdown criticized by human rights groups and Ankara’s Western allies.


Turkey sentences detained judge who won human rights award to 10 years

Updated 33 min 21 sec ago
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Turkey sentences detained judge who won human rights award to 10 years

  • The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize
  • The decision prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body

ANKARA: A Turkish court sentenced a judge who previously won an award for human rights to 10 years in prison over links to the network Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday.
Murat Arslan, who has been detained for 22 months, was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organization, after prosecutors charged him with use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock, Anadolu said.
Arslan has denied the charges and said any evidence that he had used the app was “fabricated,” Anadolu said.
The government says the outlawed app was widely used by followers of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted coup that saw rogue soldiers commandeer tanks and aircraft, attacking parliament and killing some 250 unarmed civilians.
Gulen, a former ally of President Tayyip Erdogan who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has condemned the coup and denied any involvement with it.
The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a decision that prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body.
Arslan was the former head of Turkey’s Judges and Prosecutors Union, a civil legal association that was shut down by government decree in the wide crackdown that followed the coup attempt.
Since the failed coup, authorities have formally arrested some 77,000 people and sacked or suspended more than 150,000 soldiers, civil servants and more over alleged links to the coup attempt, including alleged users of ByLock.
Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concern over the scale of the crackdown, saying President Tayyip Erdogan was using the putsch as a pretext to quash dissent.
The government, however, says the security measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threat it faces from Gulen’s network.