Gülen lawyers: Associating our client with Russian envoy assassin is slander

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The lawyers of US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen on Tuesday said a claim that their client knew police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, the killer of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Turkey, is totally groundless and constitutes slander.

In a statement from the @fgulenav Twitter account, the lawyers said the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the pro-Erdoğan media were attempting to associate the murderer of Russian Ambassador Karlov, who was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on Dec. 19, 2016, with Fethullah Gülen and members of the Gülen movement.

Gülen’s lawyers said the claim concerning their client, who is depicted in the pro-Erdoğan media as acknowledging the “killer of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov,” is a lie and slander. In reference to claims of acts of violence, the lawyers said that relating members of the Gülen movement to any criminal act is absolutely baseless as there is no evidence that they resorted to the smallest act of violence even though they have been exposed to severe persecution by the Erdoğan regime.

“The media organs and prosecutors are attempting to criminalize the members of the Gülen movement on the basis of ‘fabricated documents’ or ‘baseless claims.’ Neither Mr. Gülen nor the Gülen Movement can be involved in or associated with assassination, murder or acts of violence,” said the lawyers.

Condemning any act of violence, especially Karlov’s assassination, the lawyers also invited members of the Turkish judiciary to find the real culprits instead of fabricating fake evidence and producing baseless claims.

The pro-Erdoğan media claimed on Tuesday that files on a hard disk belonging to police officer Altıntaş have been cracked by the Russian intelligence service. According to reports in the media, the Turkish intelligence services initially completed their examination of the hard disk of Altıntaş’s laptop but were unable to retrieve erased documents. The Russian intelligence service then requested that they be allowed to take the hard disk to Russia, promising “an alternative way” of examining the hard drive.

Reports based on assertions by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Adem Akıncı claimed that Russian intelligence said they were able to locate two deleted files on the drive that included the keywords “Fethullah Gülen” and 690 deleted files that included the keyword “Hizmet,” a word that means “service” in Turkish and is used by sympathizers to refer to the Gülen movement.

Karlov was shot dead with nine bullets fired by radical Islamist police officer Altıntaş late on Dec. 19, 2016 while delivering a speech for a photography exhibition at an arts center in Ankara. Altıntaş was later gunned down in an exchange of fire with security personnel at the scene.

It was reported that police officer Altıntaş was employed and financially rewarded more than 30 times by the AKP government in a two-and-a-half-year period. 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 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.

While the Erdoğan regime insists on claiming that Altıntaş was linked to the Gülen movement, it had also been discovered that the gunman attended the sermons of Nurettin Yıldız, a staunch supporter of President Erdoğan. The solid evidence showed that Altıntaş was among attendees of radical Islamist preacher Yıldız’s study circle. The policeman was believed to have been inspired by Yıldız to murder the ambassador over Moscow’s campaign in Syria against jihadist groups.

Yıldız, the president of the Social Fabric Foundation (Sosyal Doku Vakfı), has been a lecturer at Erdoğan’s ruling AKP youth branches and an active cleric in foundations run by Erdoğan’s family. The cleric appears to hold sway over the Turkish judiciary given the fact that a criminal probe into him was dropped after he gave his blessing to marrying girls as young as 6, which sparked public outrage.

This hate-spewing man also advocated a view that members of the Gülen movement, a civic group that is highly critical of Erdoğan over corruption and the Turkish government’s aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups in the Middle East and North Africa, must be executed, hanged and their arms and legs cut off.

Altıntaş, who attended the sermons of Yıldız at Ankara’s Hacı Bayram Mosque, had shouted al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front slogans after shooting Russian Ambassador Karlov.

Hamidiye Altıntaş, the mother of police officer Altıntaş, had also denied pro-government media claims that her son attended a prep school linked to the Gülen movement before joining the police force. Another pro-government media allegation that Altıntaş had used a smart phone application known as ByLock, in an effort to link the gunman to the Gülen movement, was also later denied.

Altıntaş’s sister had also 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.

She 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.

Also, police had found traces of a search for information on the slain Karlov on the computer of lawyer Serkan Ö., who is a former roommate of Altıntaş. Police accessed data indicating that Serkan Ö. had searched for photographs of Ambassador Karlov in October.

During the investigation into the gunman, police temporarily shut down PGS, the law office for which lawyer Serkan Ö. works. The partners of the PGS law firm had shared photos with government officials including Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu that have been circulated on the Internet.

Moreover, according to pro-government media reports, Altıntaş had served on police details backing up President Erdoğan’s personal bodyguards eight times since a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.

This is not the first effort at manipulation by the Erdoğan regime. In the aftermath of the assassination of Karlov, pro-government circles had disseminated a false claim that the 22-year-old assassin, Altıntaş, had stayed at Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) President Abdullah Bozkurt’s apartment in Ankara. This claim first emerged from Erdoğan’s trolls on Twitter, was picked up by government propagandists and was then publicized on the websites and in the print editions of the pro-government media.

They even circulated a document showing the address of the assassin. Nobody bothered to check with Bozkurt to verify if the address belonged him. Police raided two houses in Ankara that were used and occupied by the hitman, and none of them had anything to do with his flat. In the meantime, Bozkurt had to post his address on Twitter as listed in the official registry just to refute the far-fetched allegations.

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF] with Turkish Minute)

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