Turkish prosecutor facing trial over illegal financial gain also implicated in murder of politician: report

Turkish prosecutor Okan Bato, already facing trial for an unexplained increase in his personal wealth, is now also suspected in the 2019 murder of a politician, Turkish Minute reported on Monday, citing a special report by the Halk TV news website, based on an anonymous official from ministry of justice.

According to the special report by Seyhan Avşar of Halk TV, the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has drafted a 151-page report outlining multiple charges against Bato, who is scheduled to appear before Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals later this month.

The HSK previously approved Bato standing trial for alleged financial irregularities after an indictment submitted to the Karşıyaka High Criminal Court in April indicated significant growth in his assets beyond his potential savings. The HSK found that between 2015 and 2019, Bato’s assets increased by TL 9,040,580 ($337,162), with TL 8.1 million ($302,000) of the increase unaccounted for.

Bato has denied the allegations, attributing the increase in his wealth to an inheritance from his in-laws. If convicted, he could face three to five years in prison and a fine ranging from TL 5 million to TL 10 million.

Ahmet Kurtuluş, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) İzmir district vice chair at the time who was allegedly involved in leaking lists of individuals targeted in operations against the Gülen movement, was murdered in May 2019. His family and lawyer have claimed that Bato had a role in the murder, although these allegations have not yet led to formal charges.

According to the justice ministry official cited by Halk TV, the HSK report also indicates that Bato could potentially be a suspect in the murder case.

Beyond the allegations of illegal financial gain and murder, the HSK report also outlines other accusations against Bato. He is suspected of facilitating the escape of a crime syndicate leader and demanding TL 500,000 from a businessman. Additionally, he is accused of having close ties with former intelligence agency members and facilitating the illegal closure of legal cases against them, according to the Halk TV report.

‘FETÖ market’ and Gülen movement investigations

During his tenure as a prosecutor in İzmir, Bato led multiple investigations into the Gülen movement, a group accused by Turkey of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Bato is also allegedly involved in a scheme known as the “FETÖ market,” which involves targeting businesspeople with supposed ties to the Gülen movement and extorting assets from them in exchange for dropping charges.

FETÖ is a derogatory term used in Turkey to describe the Gülen movement as a “terrorist group.”

Due to his rank as a first-degree prosecutor, Bato’s trial will be heard by the 5th Criminal Chamber at the Supreme Court of Appeals. The trial is scheduled to begin in late September, focusing on both financial and potential murder charges.

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