Suspect of arson attack on Müjdat Gezen Arts Center in Istanbul arrested
ISTANBULThe suspect of the arson attack on the Müjdat Gezen Arts and Culture Center in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district was arrested a day after his release on Feb. 23.
The suspect was detained again on Feb. 23 hours after he was released on condition of judicial control.
Police identified a 39-year-old shuttle bus driver, Mehmet Ali Aligül, from video footage of the attack and raided his address in the Sancaktepe district of Istanbul.
The suspect confessed to the attack in his first testimony, saying he staged the attack in reaction to Gezen’s alleged “insult” against the granddaughter of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II.
“I did it as a reaction against Müjdat Gezen’s insult targeting the grandchild of Abdülhamit. I was also drunk at the time of the attack,” Aligül added.
After his release, Aligül said he did not regret what he had done, contrary to his testimonies to police and a prosecutor’s office, saying that he had “no fear from anybody.”
Aligül also denied that he was under the influence of alcohol while he was staging the attack.
“I was not drunk when I went there. I did it because of my nationalist feelings. I have never consumed alcohol in my life and I am not a member of any organization,” he said.
Hours after his statement, the suspect was detained by police while he was on his way home.
The theater academy was set alight in the early hours of Feb. 20. Police and fire department teams were dispatched to the scene after the attack, which caused damage to the building.
Extensive security measures were taken after the incident, with police finding a bottle in the garden of the center and plastic gloves in the dustbin.
Security footage at the entrance of the building showed a man pouring gasoline before setting the building alight.
Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avcı described the arson attack as a “provocation.”
“This is an obvious provocation. I hope they recover soon, especially the students. Our friends [ministry officials] have called them but could not reach them. We are following this case,” Avcı said, adding that the ministry would issue a statement after completing their inspection.