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Prosecutor who investigated murder of former Grey Wolves leader demoted

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The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has demoted Durdu Özer, the prosecutor who led the investigation into the assassination of former Grey Wolves leader Sinan Ateş.

Ateş was assassinated in Ankara on December 30, 2022. His widow, Ayşe Ateş, has been actively seeking justice for her husband. She has previously expressed concerns over the influence of political figures, specifically Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) executives, in hindering the investigation and the prosecution of those involved in the murder.

Özer had overseen the arrest of key suspects in Ateş’s murder, including Grey Wolves Deputy Chairman Emre Yüksel, former Grey Wolves executive Tolgahan Demirbaş, and MHP lawyer Serdar Öktem. Özer’s investigations also revealed the involvement ofAhmet Yiğit Yıldırım, the current leader of the Grey Wolves, leading to the imposition of a travel ban on him.

Özer was removed from the case in July 2023, halting the investigation until after the local elections on March 31, 2024. The indictment, prepared in May, charged 22 suspects, while the cases of 17 others, including Yıldırım, were separated.

The HSK’s 2024 decree reshuffled 4,299 judges and prosecutors, with Özer’s reassignment standing out. Özer, formerly the deputy chief prosecutor in Ankara, was reassigned to the lower-ranking position of a prosecutor at the Ankara Regional Courthouse.

In a related development, Ayşe Ateş wrote an open letter to Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç and Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Friday, criticizing the handling of the investigation. She highlighted missing details in the indictment and accused authorities of protecting certain political figures involved in the case.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent meeting with Ayşe Ateş sparked speculation of a rift between Erdoğan and his far-right ally, the MHP. Erdoğan assured Ateş of his commitment to justice, a stance echoed by Justice Minister Tunç. The ongoing investigation and trial, with hearings beginning on July 1, involve 22 detainees.

Former MHP deputy Olcay Kılavuz, who is implicated in the case, claimed that he was instructed to remain silent. Kılavuz said he is ready to testify and requested the release of all wiretapped conversations between him and the suspects. Although he did not specify who asked him to keep quiet, it was likely MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Observers claim that Kılavuz’s move is a bid to stop Bahçeli from throwing him under the bus.

Before the HSK decree, some pundits suggested Erdoğan was trying to rein in the unchecked power the MHP wields through loyalists within the judiciary in order to be able to choose the future ruler himself after his death without any possible challengers.

However, the HSK decree has shown that the MHP’s power in the judiciary remains untouched and that possible action against MHP loyalists in the bureaucracy is unlikely in the short term.

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