The owner of Metro Tourism, controversial businessman Galip Öztürk, fled Turkey on the day his conviction for ordering a murder was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Hürriyet daily reported on Monday.
Öztürk had appealed the conviction on the grounds that he was judged by “Gülenists,” and his sentence was suspended at the time. However, the Hürriyet daily reported that the verdict, which stipulates an aggravated life sentence for Öztürk, was upheld by the high court on Nov. 7. It has been determined that the businessman, who is a staunch supporter of the Turkish government, fled Turkey the same day. His lawyer, Tuncay Çaltekin, told the daily that there was no travel ban imposed on his client.
Turkey has issued travel bans on hundreds of thousands of people on charges of links to terrorism, especially since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The government led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the abortive putsch and is pursuing a manhunt against real and perceived followers of the preacher.
Öztürk was charged with ordering the murder of a man named Kuvvet Köseoğlu in 1996. Along with the fugitive Öztürk, the hitman he hired, Kudret Okumuş was also sentenced to aggravated life.
A staunch supporter of Erdoğan, Öztürk previously announced on Twitter that his company was offering free bus trips to people who voted “yes” in an April 16, 2017 referendum that brought about an executive presidency in Turkey.
Last November, Öztürk, the owner of one of the largest passenger bus fleets in Turkey, had written on Twitter that he was ready to transport migrants to the EU border upon Erdoğan’s orders. He had also offered free bus trips in December to people who converted their dollar holdings to Turkish lira.