The assassination on 30 December of Sinan Ateş, an academic and a former head of the Turkish far-right Grey Wolves Organisation, continues to dominate Turkey’s agenda after 16 people including two special forces policemen have been arrested this week.
The police have arrested gang member Doğukan Cep for orchestrating the assassination. Cep, who has been a fugitive for five years, was sentenced to 62 years in prison in 2018 on several counts including membership of a drugs gang.
Cep told the police during his interrogation that the intent of the assassins was not to kill Ateş, the former head of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)’s militant organisation, but to leave him wounded as a threat against him. Cep said he was angry with Ateş for not helping him on a legal matter when he was the head of the Grey Wolves.
The Turkish police claim that the two members of the special forces they have arrested accompanied the gunman, himself the only suspect who is still on the run, on his way to Ankara to ensure that he could get through security checks on the road easily. The gunman committed the murder later, after the group had monitored Ateş’s movements for two days.
The assassination, which once again revealed the close relations between the Turkish police, far-right organisations and criminal gangs, also triggered a rift between two political parties.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Friday criticised the silence of Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the MHP, over Ateş’s murder, reminding the politician of photographs of him in the company of some mafia bosses.
“If you keep having your photo taken with members of the mafia, the young people around you will start playing mafia games. You will hand over the young people around you, you won’t be able to get away with handing over 3-4 drug dealers”, Kılıçdaroğlu said on Twitter, referring to the alleged political aim of the assassination.
The MHP’s deputy leader responded to Kılıçdaroğlu on Twitter, saying that the party has no relations with the mafia.
Ateş resigned his position in the Grey Wolves in 2020, citing his academic studies as an excuse. He supported Bahçeli when a group led by Meral Akşener left the MHP and established the rival Good Party in 2017, however it was known that he had problems with the current leadership of the Grey Wolves.
Akşener, who visited Ateş’s family after the assassination, said that the family did not want them to carry the incident to parliament by submitting questions.
When talking about Ateş’s assassination, many commentators in Turkey use the term “second Susurluk”, referring to a car crash in 1996 in Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir, in which Abdullah Çatlı, a former ultra-rightist militant wanted by police for multiple murders and drug trafficking, Hüseyin Kocadağ, a senior police officer, and Gonca Us, Çatlı’s girlfriend, were killed, while Sedat Bucak, a right-wing MP, was injured.
The accident revealed the network usually referred to in Turkey as the “deep state”, between the police, the Grey Wolves, and politicians. A report prepared by a parliamentary investigation commission in 1997 claimed that certain state institutions had been using the Grey Wolves to carry out illegal activities.