The prime suspect in the murder of seven members of a Kurdish family who then tried to set the family’s house ablaze in the central province of Konya last week has been caught by the police in a rural area of Konya, the Bold Medya news website reported on Thursday.
Mehmet Altun, 33, is charged with killing Yaşar Dedeoğulları and his wife İpek along with five other members of the family in their house in Konya’s Meram district last Friday.
Security camera footage of the incident showed Altun firing on wounded people on the ground and trying to set the house on fire.
Altun fled the area in a car he rented and abandoned in Konya’s Bozkır district, some 140 kilometers from the crime scene. Teams from police homicide and special operations as well the Gendarmerie Crime Investigation Team (JASAT) caught Altun hiding in a mountainous area five days after the incident.
In his preliminary testimony at the police department, Altun said he did not act with the intention to kill but that he just visited the Dedeoğulları family to persuade them to give up their official complaint against his family. He claimed he took a gun with him as a security measure and tried to burn down the house in an effort to destroy the security camera footage.
According to his testimony, six people from Altun’s family including him, his sister and his sister’s husband had been arrested after a quarrel with the Dedeoğulları family, and four of them were later released. On the day of the incident, Altun went to the house of Yaşar Dedeoğulları, presenting himself as a municipal officer, and ordered all family members to gather. When the Dedeoğulları family discovered his real identity, he used his gun to threaten them and wanted them to sign a petition to give up their official complaint regarding the quarrel.
Some members of the family had been injured in another attack in May by neighbors who warned them that they “will not let Kurds live here” in Konya.
Following the attack, government officials had dismissed racist motives as the main factor behind it, saying instead that it was committed because of old hostilities between two families. Critics of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), on the other hand, argued that the discriminatory and polarizing rhetoric of the AKP is responsible for the increase in violence targeting Kurds in the country.
Abdurrahman Karabulut, the lawyer for the Kurdish family, on Tuesday said he has been receiving death threats for representing the family.
Karabulut said he was made a target by Turkish government officials and the Konya governor, who argued that the attack was not racially motivated but rather due to a family feud.
The Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office earlier this week detained 14 suspects, include the wife, father, mother and sister of Altun as part of the investigation into the murders and 10 of them were arrested while four were released.