A Turkish court has accepted an indictment in the December 2016 murder of Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrei Karlov in which a Turkish Islamic cleric is mentioned as the prime suspect, Turkish media reports said on Friday.
Twenty-eight people are named in the indictment concerning the assassination of Karlov, with US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen being the prime suspect.
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.
The indictment has been accepted by the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court. The first hearing in the trial will take place on Jan. 8, 2019.
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 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. Ties between the two countries were already strained at the time of the assassination due to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on the Turkish-Syrian border a year earlier.
Since Karlov’s murder, ties between Ankara and Moscow have seen steady improvement.
Altıntaş has become a “hero” among the some factions of the Syrian opposition in Idlib as posters bearing his image during the assassination were carried by crowds in a protest against Russian military attacks on the rebel-held Syrian town on Sept. 14.