While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the government and pro-government media argue that the police officer who murdered the Russian ambassador to Turkey last week was a sympathizer of the Gülen movement, his sister on Monday denied any links on his part to the movement and questioned how he had not been dismissed in massive purges over Gülen links.
Speaking to the Hürriyet daily in an interview, Mert Altıntaş’s sister denied allegations that he had attended a Gülen-linked prep school and that a businessman had helped the family with the gunman’s education. Altıntaş’s sister said her brother had changed after starting at the police school and emphasized the non-pious lifestyle of the family.
“Contrary to what is claimed, he never attended the Körfez preparation school. My mother funded all his education. I’m the one who attended that prep school, but then, there was no such thing as FETÖ,“ the gunman’s sister told the daily. “FETÖ” is an acronym the government coined to label the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.
Altıntaş’s sister also referred to a close friend of the police officer who gunned down the Russian envoy and then chanted radical slogans protesting the involvement of Russia in Aleppo. According to her account, her brother was extremely close to a man she called “S.” and said that even when on duty he was with this young man. This colleague S.B. and Altıntaş were also roommates until S.B. got married.
The police had detained Altıntaş’s latest roommate, a lawyer named Serkan Özkan. During the investigation into the gunman, the law office for which Özkan worked, PGS, was shut down by the police. The partners at the PGS law office had shared photos with government officials including Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu that have been circulated on the internet. On Saturday Soylu claimed that the murderer was linked to the Gülen movement and that the radical Islamist clues in his life were efforts to disguise his links to the movement, which is known for its promotion of interfaith dialogue and is frowned upon by Islamists for those efforts.
Challenging the allegations, Altıntaş’s sister, who said as a family they are ashamed of what Mert did, asked how the gunman was able to serve in the police force amid massive dismissals over Gülen links.
It was reported over the weekend that the gunman had attended the sermons of Nurettin Yıldız, a staunch supporter of President Erdoğan.
The Hürriyet daily reported that police officer Altıntaş, who shouted al Nusra Front slogans after shooting the Russian ambassador in an art gallery on Monday, attended the sermons of Yıldız at Ankara’s Hacı Bayram Mosque.
Yıldız, the president of the Social Fabric Foundation (Sosyal Doku Vakfı), had sparked a public reaction after he argued that marrying a 6-year-old girl is legitimate. In addition to this remark that caused outrage, Yıldız also said it is a sin to watch a woman news anchor on TV and that women should be grateful to be beaten.
In an interview with the state-owned Anadolu news agency, Yıldız voiced support for Erdoğan, saying that it was a requirement of his faith to support the president.
It also turned out on Sunday that the gunman Altıntaş was financially rewarded more than 30 times by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a two-and-a-half-year period as a police officer.
According to the report, Altıntaş was recruited to police ranks in 2014 through the AKP reference system, which was initiated by the government following the Dec. 17/25, 2013 corruption operation that implicated several ministers and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family.
The AKP had discarded its previous recruiting system and closed police academies in reaction to the corruption investigations, which the government claimed was a coup attempt by the Gülen movement.