Investigation into alleged killer of Russian jet pilot reopened in Turkey

Investigation into alleged killer of Russian jet pilot reopened in Turkey

Investigation into alleged killer of Russian jet pilot reopened in Turkey The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in the western province of İzmir has reopened an investigation into the alleged killer of a Turkey-downed Russian Su-24 jet pilot, citing new evidence on the incident. 

The Prosecutor’s Office’s terror and organizational crimes bureau had recently ruled for a nonsuit for Alparslan Çelik over “grievous provocation in the killing of the Russian pilot after evaluating reports of his testimony, interviews in the media and video footage,” but reversed its decision on June 24.

“It was found out that there was another pilot that lost his life and that fire was opened on a Russian rescue helicopter which arrived to rescue the pilots and the helicopter crashed as a result. Even though the suspect Alparlan Çelik stated that he tried to calm the situation but the people around him didn’t follow his orders, the fact that fire was opened on the rescue helicopter steadily opens up the defense to be reinvestigated,” read the statement on the decision.

“The insistence on firing on the rescue helicopter after the two pilots reached the ground made it necessary for the reevaluation of the suspect Alparslan Çelik’s defence,” it added.

Çelik’s lawyer voiced his surprise on the reopening of the investigation, saying that the helicopter issue was never asked to his client. 

“When we gave our testimony on the Russian pilot case, no questions were asked about the downed helicopter. Questions were asked only on the Russian pilot that jumped out of the plane. But the helicopter issue wasn’t involved,” Çelik’s lawyer, Murat Üstündağ, told daily Hürriyet, adding that he had tried to reach the prosecutor but could not as it was late and thus he was unable view the documents on the investigation. 

“I don’t think that the helicopter issue will be related to my client. He feels at ease and we also feel at ease. We thought that the file was closed and we didn’t know about the new developments. Our lawyer friends visited the jail to see Alparslan Çelik. We are not in the position to comment on the investigation without seeing an official document,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Russian diplomatic sources denied allegations that Moscow had provided new evidence, with one diplomat, whose identity was not disclosed, saying that they were following the developments closely. 

“We are expecting the investigation to be carried out seriously. We didn’t contribute to the recent developments. We didn’t request something,” the source told Hürriyet, adding that the pilot’s name was wrongly stated in the news.

“Our pilot’s name is Peshkov. There is another name in the news. The [Russian] Foreign Ministry spokesman will make a statement on this issue,” the diplomat added. 

The reopening of the investigation came amid a softening of tensions between Turkey and Russia. Moscow recently invited Ankara to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Conference scheduled to be held in Sochi. 

The Russian diplomats said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu if a request from the latter was made. 

A local court ruled for the arrest of Çelik on April 3 for violating a gun law following his detainment in İzmir on March 30.

Çelik later claimed the Russian pilot could have been killed by another group fighting alongside the Turkmens in Syria and he “definitely” didn’t shoot the pilot.

Both pilots aboard the Su-24 jet downed by Turkey in November 2015 ejected and parachuted to the ground on the Syrian side of the border. One of them was killed by gunfire from the ground after ejecting from the plane.

Turkey says the Russian jet strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, while Moscow insists it did not cross over from Syria and accuses Ankara of a planned provocation.