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Former officer admits role in 2002 murder of Turkish academic: report

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Nuri Gökhan Bozkır, a former military officer who was accused by the Turkish government of the unsolved murder of academic Necip Hablemitoğlu and arrested by a court last week, has confessed to involvement in the 2002 killing of the academic, the T24 news website reported on Thursday.

Hablemitoğlu was killed on Jan. 18, 2002, in front of his house in Ankara.

Accused of the murder of the academic, Bozkır was rendered from Ukraine by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in late January and arrested by a court on Feb. 8.

According to T24, Bozkır admitted his role in the Hablemitoğlu murder in his deposition, saying that as part of an undercover mission he scouted the neighborhood where the academic’s house was located in addition to giving a ride to the hitman on the day of the murder.

Bozkır said he was informed in mid-November 2002 by a high-ranking military figure of the time that Hablemitoğlu was their target in an undercover mission and ordered to conduct reconnaissance around the academic’s house on Portakal Çiçeği Street.

Posing as a scrap dealer, Bozkır carried out the mission and then prepared a written report regarding his observations on the pedestrian and vehicle traffic and security cameras near Hablemitoğlu’s house and gave it to the person from whom he received the order, according to T24.

Bozkır further said that he didn’t carry out the assassination himself but gave a ride to the hitman to and from the scene of the murder.

“I picked him [the gunman] up from where he told me. I dropped him off in some vacant land near [Hablemitoğlu’s] house. … I started waiting. I heard a gunshot 5 to 10 minutes later. I went to the street [of the academic’s house], picked up the hitman and dropped him back at his house,” T24 quoted Bozkır as saying in his deposition.

“I don’t know where the gun is. This was wrong. I told [the prosecutor] what I know. I tried to shed light on the incident. I regret [what I did],” Bozkır also said.

Bozkır was a major who served in an elite group attached to the Special Forces Command (ÖKK) in the Turkish military before he was dishonorably discharged in 2007.

After 2007 he reportedly started to supply so-called associated military material — equipment, food, and humanitarian aid — to countries in which there were armed conflicts.

Bozkır went to Ukraine in 2015 and never came back. He applied for asylum in Ukraine in 2019 and said he was used by MİT in weapons smuggling to Syria and that his life would be at risk if he were extradited to Turkey.

In an interview with Ukrainian news website Strana, Bozkır said that between 2012 and 2015, he dispatched a total of 49 weapons shipments to Turkmens in Syria.

He was detained in Kyiv at the request of Turkey on July 10, 2019, but Ukrainian courts have not found grounds for his extradition. The former soldier had a residence permit in Ukraine as well as a legal business. He applied for political asylum; however, by the time he was brought back to Turkey, the Ukrainian authorities had not yet made a decision on the request.

Bozkır says he was accused of Hablemitoğlu’s murder because he turned down a business proposal from an influential businessman close to the family of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2018.

Hablemitoğlu was an academic at Atatürk University who was known for his research and books on the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, the movement denies any involvement in the coup. Despite the group’s denial, Ankara launched a massive crackdown on the movement, arresting tens of thousands.

The Gülen movement has been time and again framed in conspiracy theories about Hablemitoğlu’s murder; yet after the 2016 coup attempt, these theories turned into an indictment that accuses FETÖ, a derogatory acronym coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen group as a terrorist organization, of the murder.

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