Fugitive suspect in 2002 murder of Turkish academic detained in Bulgaria

Bulgarian security forces have apprehended a fugitive suspect in the 2002 murder of Turkish academic Necip Hablemitoğlu, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Friday, citing the Interior Ministry.

Former member of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) elite Special Forces Command, Mustafa Levent Göktaş, was taken into Bulgarian police custody in Svilengrad, days after INTERPOL issued a Red Notice at Turkey’s request on August 27, Cumhuriyet said.

The retired colonel is one of nine suspects accused of linked to the killing of Hablemitoğlu, an academic at Atatürk University, outside his home in the Turkish capital on Jan. 18, 2002.  

Hablemitoğlu, whose murder remains unsolved was known for his research and books on Gülen movement and branding the religious group, which Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt to topple the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a criminal organisation. The Turkish government has linked the religious group to the academic’s murder. 

In 2015, Ankara prosecutors launched an investigation into group’s alleged involvement in unsolved murders committed between 2000 and 2013, including the case of Hablemitoğlu.

Earlier this year, seven suspects, including retired military officers, were arrested by the Ankara police after arrest warrants were issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in June. Göktaş and another retired colonel, Tan Dervişoğlu, remained at large. 

Sixty-three-year-old Göktaş is accused of premeditated murder and membership in a criminal organization, according to Cumhuriyet.

The Turkish Embassy to Bulgaria, ​​the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) remain talks on Göktaş, Deutsche Welle Turkish cited Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu as saying on Friday. Göktaş is set to be either deported from the Balkan country, or face a Bulgarian court, both of which are welcomed by Ankara, he added.


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