Exhibition organizer arrested over Russian envoy Karlov assassination

Published 28.12.2017 00:00
Updated 28.12.2017 21:56
Altıntaş is seen in the background as slain envoy Karlov prepares to speak during the exhibition AP Photo
Altıntaş is seen in the background as slain envoy Karlov prepares to speak during the exhibition (AP Photo)

The organizer of an arts exhibition, in which Russia's former envoy Andrey Karlov was assassinated, was arrested late Thursday.

Mustafa Timur Özkan was arrested over the grounds of "attempt to deliberately join homicide" by a court in Ankara, where the Russian diplomat was killed on Dec. 19, 2016, by an off-duty officer whose strong links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) continue to cast a shadow over the investigation.

Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, the gunman who assassinated the former Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in Ankara last year, personally knew the leader of FETÖ, Fetullah Gülen, the Ankara prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

According to the statement, the prosecution had managed to recover all information from Altıntaş's phone as part of the ongoing investigation conducted jointly with Russia.

Ankara Public Prosecutor Adem Akıncı, who has been carrying out the Turkish part of the investigation, previously identified that 22-year-old Altıntaş was a police officer linked to FETÖ. The suspect was also found to be a user of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app used by members of the secretive group.

Also as part of the investigation into Karlov's assassination, five people were arrested including three police officers and Guru Media Broadcast Group Chairman Hayreddin Aydınbaş.

After Karlov's assassination, a concurrent investigation was initiated by Turkey and Russia to find out the motives behind it. Altıntaş's hard disk was examined, first by Turkish authorities and then by the Russian delegation, who took it to Russia, explaining that they wanted to study the disk using alternative methods, which eventually recovered deleted files.

The Russian delegation found that two files with the words "Fetullah Gülen" present, 690 files with "Hizmet," a term that means "service" and which FETÖ calls itself, four files with "FETÖ", and one file with "Nur Community" were deleted from Altıntaş's computer. They also searched for the words "al-Qaida," "al-Nusra" and "Daesh" in the deleted files, but none were found with these words, the Hürriyet daily reported.

Karlov was speaking at the opening of a Russian-themed exhibition in an Ankara art gallery when he was shot dead by Altıntaş, who was killed in the ensuing shootout with police in November 2016. The assassination was at a time of thaw between strained Turkish and Russian relations and investigation found out that Altıntaş was a member of FETÖ, which perpetrated last year's coup attempt in Turkey.

Since the murder, Ankara and Moscow gradually made progress in rebuilding their ties that were derailed by the 2015 downing of a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border by the Turkish military.

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