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Jan 11 2019

Suspect of Karlov murder says he is linked to a religious group but not Gülen

A Turkish police officer, among 28 suspects accused of conspiring to kill Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in 2016, told a court on Thursday that he was linked to Menzil Sufi religious group and had no relation to Gülen movement, nationalist-left Aydınlık newspaper reported.

Karlov was shot by an off-duty police officer at the opening of a photographic exhibition in Ankara in December 2016. The murder was captured on video. The man was killed by police just after he shot Karlov.

Turkish prosecutors say that the assassination aimed to harm Turkish-Russian relations and was organised by the Gülen movement, a religious group Turkey also accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016

The movement’s U.S.-based leader Fethullah Gülen is also a suspect in the case. 

The prosecutors charged police officer Hasan Tunç with membership to Gülen movement, which Turkey sees as a terrorist organisation. Tunç’s financial transactions with another suspect and the fact that his name was also mentioned in another Gülen-linked investigation are provided as evidence by the prosecutors. 

During the hearing on Thursday, Tunç said he was ethnically Kurdish but also a Turkish nationalist. He said that he had never had any relation to Gülen network, but joined the Menzil group in 2009 when he was a university student.

The Menzil Naqshbandi network is one of the largest Sufi religious groups in Turkey. Some in Turkey say that, after the alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement ended in 2015, the Menzil group has become closer to the AKP.

Tunç said he met the assassin Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş and one other suspect after he was appointed to riot police branch headquarters in the Turkish capital Ankara. He said that the only thing they had in common was that all of them prayed.

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