Turkey charged 28 people on Friday in relation to the 2016 assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, naming US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen as the prime suspect in the case, Reuters reported.
Andrei Karlov was shot dead by an off-duty policeman while speaking at an Ankara exhibit opening in December 2016. The gunman, Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “Don’t forget Aleppo!” as he opened fire, apparently referring to Russia’s involvement in Syria. He was shot dead by police at the scene.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the Gülen movement was behind the assassination, a charge the cleric has denied. Erdoğan also blames the preacher’s network for an attempted military coup in July 2016.
Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has condemned the coup and denied any involvement with it.
Authorities charged Gülen and 27 others with attempting to “overthrow the constitutional order,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and premeditated murder, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Prosecutors say Gülen’s organization was attempting to derail relations between Turkey and Russia with the killing. At the time of the December 2016 killing of Karlov, ties between the two countries had already been strained after Turkey downed a Russian warplane over Syria a year earlier.
Since Karlov’s assassination, ties between Ankara and Moscow have made steady improvement.
Altıntaş has become a “hero” among the some factions of the Syrian opposition in Idlib as a poster bearing his image during the assassination was carried by crowds in a protest against the Russian military attacks on the rebel-held Syrian town on Sept. 14.