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Turkey sentences five people to life over Russian envoy’s killing

ANKARA, Turkey: A Turkish court has sentenced five people to life in jail over the murder of the Russian ambassador in Ankara in 2016.

Andrei Karlov was shot dead by an off-duty policeman while speaking at a photo exhibition opening in the Turkish capital on December 19, 2016.

Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo!” as he opened fire, apparently referring to Russia’s involvement in Syria’s war. He was shot dead by police at the scene.

State broadcaster TRT Haber said on Tuesday three of the convicted people were given two life sentences without parole, while the two others received one life sentence each, also without parole.

Six other suspects were acquitted while seven others were convicted of membership of an armed “terrorist” group, NTV broadcaster reported, without giving further details.

President Tayyip Erdogan had said Muslim religious leader Fethullah Gulen’s movement was behind the assassination, a charge Gulen has denied.

Ankara also blames Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, for a failed coup in July 2016.

The court acquitted six defendants of all charges and suspended the case against Gulen and others who were being tried in absentia, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported.

The five sentenced on Tuesday were charged with “premeditated murder” and “attempting to overthrow the constitution,” according to Anadolu.

The court also separately charged three of the defendants with terrorism ties for helping the shooter.

In 2018, Turkey indicted 28 people over the killing, naming Gulen as the prime suspect. The suspects were charged with attempting to “overthrow the constitutional order”, membership of a “terrorist organisation” and premeditated murder.

The cases of Gulen and nine others were being handled separately. Gulen has been living in the United States since 1999. He has denied the allegations of his involvement in the assassination.