[UPDATE] Arts center arsonist arrested after brief release

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Mehmet Ali Aligül

Mehmet Ali Aligül, who confessed to setting an arts center in İstanbul belonging to famous thespian Müjdat Gezen on fire, was arrested on Friday.

He had been detained on Thursday hours after he was released on probation.

The decision came after a prosecutor appealed to the court against Aligül’s release. The prosecutor subsequently applied to a higher court after his first appeal was denied by the first court.

Although the prosecutor had demanded Aligül’s arrest on charges of arson, the lower court released the man, who said in his testimony that he could have burned down the whole building if he had wanted. Aligül set the arts center on fire due to the thespian’s critical remarks on TV about one of the granddaughters of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.

He was detained on Wednesday night. The suspect had shared a message on social media following the fire at the arts center on Sunday night, saying that anyone who defames the Ottoman Empire would die.

Gezen told the Sözcü newspaper on Monday that the incident at the Müjdat Gezen Arts Center was an arson attack and that security camera footage shows a man with a beard entering the street at night with a plastic container filled with gasoline.

The security camera footage, which was made public on Monday morning, confirms Gezen’s claims as a fire breaks out at the arts center after the man pours gasoline from the plastic container.

Firefighters immediately extinguished the blaze after they were called by neighbors.
Gezen is known as a Kemalist government critic.

In the meantime, the staunchly pro-government Yeni Akit daily attracted widespread criticism on social media for the way it covered the fire at the Müjdat Gezen Arts Center.

“Great shock to ‘pimp’ Müjdat,” wrote Yeni Akit in the headline of its news report.

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