Murderer of high judge sentenced to life in jail in Turkey

Murderer of high judge sentenced to life in jail in Turkey

Murderer of high judge sentenced to life in jail in Turkey

Alparslan Arslan

An Ankara court has sentenced the murderer of a member of the Council of State, the highest administrative court in Turkey, to aggravated life imprisonment in a ruling on Aug. 31, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

The ruling concerns an armed attack on May 17, 2006 at the Council of State building in the capital Ankara, in which Mustafa Yücel Özbilgin was murdered and four of his fellow judges were wounded.

According to previous local news reports, the five judges were in the midst of a meeting, when Alparslan Arslan, a lawyer accredited with the Istanbul Bar Association, burst into the room and fired his weapon. Police captured the gunman as he tried to escape.

Arslan received aggravated life imprisonment for killing Özbilgin and an additional 72 years on charges of “attempted murder” regarding the injury of judges Mustafa Birden, Ayla Gönenç, Ayfer Özdemir and Ahmet Çobanoğlu.

The Ankara 23rd Heavy Penalty Court also sentenced each of the three other suspects standing trial to 39 years and three months in prison. The suspects Osman Yıldırım, Erhan Timuroğlu and İsmail Sağır were charged with “assisting intentional killing.”

The fugitive suspect Yıldırım was caught in the northwestern province of Edirne by security forces on Aug. 31 while trying to flee to Greece, Anadolu Agency said.

The suspect Mahmut Güzel was given five years in prison as well as an administrative fine of 375 Turkish Liras (approximately $57) over charges of “conducting arms trade.” The supect Erkan Ayyıldız was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison and similarly given an administrative fine of 375 liras over the same charges.

Previous local news reports quoted the assailant Arslan telling police he had carried out the attack because four of the judges had voted against the promotion of an elementary school teacher who wore a headscarf outside of work.

The attack on the Council of State judges was first tied by state prosecutors to what they claimed was a much bigger conspiracy, the Ergenekon probe which dates back to 2007 when a cache of explosives was found at the home of a former military officer.

On August 5, 2013, the appeals court separated the case from Ergenekon on the grounds that the local court had failed to show “legal and actual links” between an armed attack at the Council of State (“Danıştay” in Turkish) and the Ergenekon.

In 2017, Turkish authorities said the 2013 Ergenekon trial was based on fabricated evidence, and blamed the prosecutions on illegal FETÖ member soldiers trying to purge the military of rival officers.

FETÖ is accused of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey -- which killed 250 people and injured thousands -- as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through infiltrating Turkish institutions, including the military.