An advisor to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was photographed with a criminal businessman, who has been on the run for years, Gazete Manifesto reported on Sunday.
Halil Kalaycı, a mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ayvacık district of in the northern province of Samsun, posted a photograph on Instagram, showing himself with Galip Ozturk and Hidayet Turkoglu, an advisor to Erdogan and chief of the Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF).
Ozturk, the owner of Metro Holding which operates in the tourism, food, mining, and energy sectors, reportedly fled to Georgia in 2018 when the High General Criminal Council of the Court of Cassation (Yargitay) approved his life sentence for instigating a murder 22 years ago.
The businessman is also known for his outspoken support of Erdogan. Journalist Ismail Saymaz condemned Turkoglu for meeting with Ozturk, saying, “How dare does the presidential advisor [Turkoglu] meet with Ozturk, while Turkey demands his extradition [from Georgia]? Ozturk is a convicted and a wanted man. Is that a minor crime?”
Later, Kalaycı reportedly deleted the Instagram photo following criticism on social media. He did not mention where or when the photo was taken. Critics claim that Ozturk had similarly fled the country a few times in the past due to various other court cases against him.
The last time Ozturk returned to Turkey from Georgia where he was living as a fugitive, was three years ago.
All convictions were reportedly suspended and arrest warrants against him were lifted in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in 2016 for which the Erdogan regime pinned the blame on followers of the Gulen Movement, led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who denies the charge.
On October 11, 2016, the Istanbul 20th High Criminal Court ruled in favor of Ozturk, halting the execution of his life sentence in a premeditated murder conviction.
As for his organized crime case, the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court ordered a retrial on September 17, 2018, after the Beykoz court suspended the conviction on August 18, 2016.