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Erdoğan’s meeting with widow of former Grey Wolves leader sparks rumors of rift with far-right ally

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Ayşe Ateş, the widow of murdered former Grey Wolves leader Sinan Ateş, at the presidential palace in Ankara on Tuesday, sparking speculation of a growing rift between Erdoğan and his far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Sinan Ateş, the former leader of the Grey Wolves, was assassinated in Ankara on December 30, 2022. His widow has been actively seeking justice for her husband. Ateş has previously  expressed concerns over the influence of political figures, specifically MHP executives, in hindering the investigation and the prosecution of those involved in the murder.

The meeting, announced by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik, included Ayşe Ateş and her two daughters, Bengisu and Banuçiçek. Ateş described the meeting as positive and said Erdoğan closely listened to her and her daughters.

“He actually listened to us for a long time,” she said. “My daughters also spoke at length and had a conversation with him. I explained our situation, discussed the case, and he assured us that the necessary steps would be taken quickly.”

Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç, who also attended the meeting, said Erdoğan is commited to ensuring justice for Sinan Ateş.

“Our president said nothing will remain in the dark,” Tunç told reporters. “There is an ongoing investigation and trial. We need to trust the judiciary. The hearing begins on July 1, and there are currently 22 detainees involved in the case.”

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office recently completed its investigation into Sinan Ateş’s assassination, indicting 22 individuals. Despite this, critics, including Ayşe Ateş, accused authorities of attempting to protect certain political figures by providing an incomplete indictment. She argues that the omission of critical details is an effort to shield high-ranking officials within the MHP.

The meeting between Erdoğan and Ateş has intensified rumors of a rift between Erdoğan and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli.

Bahçeli on Tuesday posted a photo of himself on Instagram wearing a ring inscribed with “Allah is sufficient for me,” which many interpreted as a threat against Erdoğan. The photo was posted shortly before Erdoğan’s meetings with Ateş and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel.

MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın downplayed the significance of Erdoğan’s meetings, saying, “The president can meet with any politician or person he wants.” Yalçın also targeted journalists critical of the MHP, accusing them of using Sinan Ateş’s murder to attack the party.

Despite Bahçeli’s public denials, the timing of his Instagram post has fueled speculation about tension between the AKP and MHP. Analysts suggest that the investigation into Sinan Ateş’s murder could become a flashpoint in the relationship between the AKP and MHP, particularly if high-ranking MHP figures are implicated.

Ateş, in a statement following her meeting with Erdoğan, said she requested a thorough investigation into the murder. She expressed relief that her daughters felt safer and more secure following the meeting. “My daughters slept well last night. I slept well,” she said. “The real victory will be achieved when justice is served, and all the perpetrators are held accountable.”

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