A Turkish court has sentenced five people to life in prison over the 2016 assassination of Russia”s ambassador to the country.
Andrei Karlov was fatally shot at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital Ankara by an off-duty police officer on December 19.
The gunman, Mevlüt Mert Altintas, was later shot and killed by other officers at the scene. The gunman had claimed he wanted to punish Moscow for its support for the Syrian regime which was then in the process of taking over Aleppo after an intense bombing campaign
Turkish prosecutors had concluded that a criminal network, led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, was behind Karlov’s slaying. A total of 28 people including Gülen, were charged over the ambassador’s killing.
Prosecutors said the attack was meant to derail warming ties between Turkey and Russia, and have blamed the network behind a failed coup in Turkey earlier that year.
The court in Ankara sentenced three defendants to two separate life terms, while two others received one life term for “membership of a terrorist organisation”, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Those sentenced include the man suspected of “controlling” Altintas, a former intelligence officer accused of providing information on the ambassador’s moves to Gülen’s network, and a person accused of relaying orders for the killing. The suspects have rejected all accusations against them and are expected to appeal the ruling.
Six others were acquitted of all charges, the agency reported, after a trial that began in January 2019.
The court also ruled to suspend the case against Gülen and other defendants who were being tried in absentia.
Gülen, 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.