Two police officers have been arrested on charges aiding and abetting the murder of the former president of the Grey Wolves, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) youth wing, local media reported on Thursday.
Sinan Ateş, an academic and the former president of the Grey Wolves, was fatally shot in the capital city of Ankara on Dec 30. Ateş, who was leaving an apartment in Kızılırmak with a friend when they were attacked by two men on motorcycles, was seriously injured by a bullet to the head and pronounced dead shortly after being taken to a hospital.
According to Turkish media reports, 18 suspects have been detained so far as part of an investigation launched into the incident by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Ten suspects have been arrested pending trial.
Among the arrestees are Vedat Balkaya, who was driving the motorcycle during the attack, and the MHP’s provincial board member in İstanbul Ufuk Köktürk.
Murat Can Çolak and Aşkın Mert Gelenbey, members of the special forces police, were also arrested on Thursday along with two other suspects on charges of aiding and abetting the murder.
The officers were reportedly accused of transporting Eray Özyağcı, who fired the gun during the attack, from İstanbul to Ankara in a van.
Doğukan Çep, a suspect who allegedly aided the perpetrators of the murder and was determined to have links to both Balkaya and Özyağcı, was detained at a hotel in İstanbul’s Beykoz district the same day.
Özyağcı is still at large, according to local media reports.
A report by the Deutsche Welle Turkish service on Thursday said Mustafa Uzunlar, the owner of the van allegedly used by Çolak and Gelenbey to bring Özyağcı from Istanbul to Ankara and one of the suspects detained in connection with the murder, testified against the two officers.
DW quoted Uzunlar, manager of a parking lot in İstanbul’s Ataşehir district, as saying that Çep introduced him to the two police officers on Dec. 27 and asked him to give then his van so they could go to Ankara and attend a wedding there.
Uzunlar said his van was brought back by one of the police officers early on Dec. 28, citing one of his employees. He added that he wouldn’t have given his vehicle to them if he knew they were going to use it to move Özyağcı and that he didn’t speak to Çep face-to-face after his car was handed over.
Ateş, who served as the president of the Grey Wolves between 2019 and 2020, was directly dismissed by the leader of the MHP and has been the target of the group’s members on social media. He also drew a reaction from MHP members recently for taking a photo with figures from the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party.
The Grey Wolves are seen as the paramilitary wing of the MHP, and their ideology is mainly based on Turkish nationalism. Therefore, Kurds, Armenians and other minorities in Turkey have occasionally been their targets.
In 2020 France officially banned the Grey Wolves after a center dedicated to the memory of those who died in the mass killings of Armenians during World War I was defaced with graffiti, including the name of the Grey Wolves.
Earlier last year, the European Parliament called on the European Union and its member states to examine the possibility of adding the Grey Wolves to the EU terrorist list.
In its 2019-2020 report prepared by Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor, the EP voiced concerns about the group, saying it was expanding to worrying levels not only in Turkey but also in EU countries.