Sabancı murder suspect arrested after 20 years on the run
Banu Şen - ISTANBUL
AA PhotosOne of the suspects in the 1996 assassination of Özdemir Sabancı has been arrested by an Istanbul court 20 years after the Sabancı Holding board member’s killing.
İsmail Akkol was arrested Feb. 4 after he and Fadik Adıyaman, both members of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), were detained in the Aegean province of Aydın on Feb. 2. The suspects were brought to the Istanbul Palace of Justice in Çağlayan at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 4.
Akkol was brought before the Istanbul 18th High Criminal Court to face charges over his role in the Sabancı assassination, whereas Adıyaman already had a definitive judgment over “membership in a terror organization.”
According to reports from Doğan News Agency, Akkol was accompanied by four police officers, one of whom was armed and wore a balaclava and a steel vest.
At the beginning of the court, which was open to members of the press, Akkol claimed to have heard rumors that he would be executed in jail.
“At the police departments both in Aydın and in Istanbul, I have obliquely been told that I will be executed once in prison,” he said, claiming not to know the crimes he is being accused of.
Both the suspect and his lawyers underlined they were not provided with copies of the indictment and wished to proceed with their defense after they received the necessary documents.
The court, however, decided that a judicial control decision would be insufficient considering the nature of the crime, the amount of evidence against Akkol, and the suspect’s record of running away from trials, thereby ordering Akkol’s arrest.
Akkol’s lawyers told reporters that their client was arrested for “attempting to forcefully change Turkey’s constitutional order” and that the next hearing was to be held on April 6.
Meanwhile, Adıyaman was also arrested and sent to Bakırköy Women’s Prison for a previous sentencing of six years and three months of imprisonment.
Turkish security forces launched an extensive operation in mid-January after receiving intelligence that Akkol and Adıyaman would infiltrate Turkey through the Aegean coast. Reports indicate the efforts were intensified in Aydın after discovering the duo entered Turkey from its town of Didim.
According to initial reports, Akkol and Adıyaman presumably crossed into Turkey by sea with the help of human smugglers operating in the Aegean.
After spending the night on a beach or in the woods, the duo arrived at Aydın’s Söke district via a taxi, early on Feb. 1. They were in possession of fake identity cards that had been arranged using the names of Söke residents.
The suspects were waiting at an inter-city bus terminal when they were detained en route to the northwestern province of Eskişehir.
Akkol has been on the run since he took part in the assassination of leading Turkish industrialist Sabancı, his secretary Nilgün Hasefe, and ToyotaSA General Manager Haluk Görgün at the headquarters of Sabancı Holding in 1996.
In the early 2000s, Akkol was recognized as a “political refugee” by Greece using the alias “Çetin Bayır.” Reports indicate the Greek intelligence was aware of Bayır’s actual identity and knew him by the code-name “Xristo.”
However, he was later detained by Greek police alongside three other suspects, including DHKP-C leader Hüseyin Fevzi Tekin, during a 2014 operation on residences in the Gizi neighborhood of Athens.
According to Greek media reports, Akkol confessed in his interrogation that the weapons found in their Gizi house were bought to be used in attacks on Turkish territory.
Akkol was later released by a local court, although Turkish authorities had demanded his extradition for his alleged involvement in the murder of Sabancı.