ANKARA – A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced five people to life prison terms over the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in 2016, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
An off-duty police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, fatally shot Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in Turkish capital Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. Other officers later shot and killed the gunman at the scene.
Turkish prosecutors concluded that a network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind Karlov’s slaying and charged 28 people, including Gulen, over the killing. Prosecutors said the attack was meant to derail warming ties between Turkey and Russia.
The Ankara court convicted three of the defendants of the charges of “attempting to overturn the constitutional order” and of “murder with the aim of terrorism” and sentenced them to two separate life terms, Anadolu reported. Two other defendants received one life term each for “attempting to overturn the constitutional order” and 15-year prison terms for aiding the murder.
Those defendants include a man accused of being Altintas’ “controller,” a former intelligence officer accused of providing Gulen’s network information on the ambassador’s moves, and a person accused of relaying orders for the killing.
Eight people received prison terms raging between seven and 10 years for membership in Gulen's network or for aiding the group, which Turkey has designated a terror organization.
Six defendants were acquitted of all charges, the agency reported.
The court also ruled to suspend the case against Gulen and eight defendants who were being tried in absentia.
The defendants have rejected all accusations against them and are expected to appeal the ruling. Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, has denied involvement in the coup or the Russian diplomat’s assassination. Turkey is seeking his extradition.