Turkey tries Sabancı murder suspect 20 years on
ISTANBUL - Agence France-PresseTurkey has put to trial one of the suspects in the 1996 assasination of Özdemir Sabancı some 20 years after the top industrialist’s killing, which remains as one of the country’s most notorious assassinations.
İsmail Akkol of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) was detained in February after two decades on the run, with authorities warning of another attack.
Akkol has been on Turkey’s wanted list for 20 years over the January 1996 killing of Sabancı, the former billionaire head of one of Turkey’s top family-owned industrial conglomerates, Sabancı Holding, that still dominate the domestic economy.
Akkol was present in court along with his lawyers at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Justice Courthouse for the first hearing, Doğan News Agency reported. Lawyer Vehbi Kahveci represented the interests of the Sabancı family.
After introductory statements, the trial was adjourned until June 22.
“I came [back] to Turkey for justice, for justice for the people,” Akkol was quoted as saying in court.
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.
Sabancı was killed along with his secretary and the head of the firm’s auto branch by a hit squad of three DHKP-C members at the Istanbul headquarters of Sabancı Holding.
With interests in finance, energy and consumer goods, it is one of Turkey’s top two family-controlled conglomerates along with Koç Holding.
Akkol and suspected accomplice Fehriye Erdal, a female DHKP-C member, then fled the country. Erdal was captured in Belgium in 1999 but later released. Turkey is still seeking her extradition.
Her precise whereabouts remain a mystery, although last week pro-government TV channel A-Haber claimed to have found her in Brussels, prompting a new push by the authorities for her to face justice in Turkey.
The third militant, Mustafa Duyar, the only person convicted in the case, was killed in prison in 1999 while serving a life sentence.
Akkol and another man were arrested at a bus station in Turkey’s Aegean Aydın province in February, carrying weapons, explosives, ammunition and fake IDs.
Reports at the time quoted police sources as saying that the pair had been planning a suicide attack in Ankara. Turkey has been on high alert for months following a series of attacks blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).