Unidentified source corroborates mobster’s allegations on Cypriot journalist murder

After Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker’s recent allegations regarding the assassination of Turkish Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı in 1996, important revelations have caused another stir in the Mediterranean island.

Former legal bureau chief of Turkish Cypriot law enforcement in Famagusta, Tema Irkad, told Cypriot newspaper Yenidüzen on Friday that back in 2017, he had been approached by a stranger who told him that one of Turkey’s most infamous mafia leaders Abdullah Çatlı had been involved in the assassination.

According to the information Irkad received, Çatlı had given an Uzi gun to a young boy to commit the murder. There were four people in the murder scene in total, the anonymous source told Irkad, including mafia hitman Hüseyin Demirci.

Adalı was working on an exposé on corruption in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), before and after the 1974 invasion of the island that resulted in the split that continues to this day. He was gunned down in front of his home on July 6, 1996.

Adalı’s exposé focused on an armed raid incident in the St. Barnabas Monastery in Famagusta. In one of his articles published back in March that year, he wrote about 15 masked and armed men searching for precious jewels and other artifacts that were believed to have been buried under the monastery in 1974.

The journalist wrote that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) civil defence organisation had been involved in the incident.

Peker unearthed the cold case in his series of tell-all videos alleging close relations between the Turkish state and the mafia.

In a video he released on Sunday, Peker accused former police chief and interior minister Mehmet Ağar of hiring his brother Atilla Peker for the assassination.

Atilla Peker later went to the chief public prosecutor in Istanbul to testify, saying he had travelled to Cyprus with former intelligence official Korkut Eken in March 1996 to carry out the hit. According to his testimony, the younger brother had scouted Adalı’s home and had received orders from Eken to shoot the journalist even if there were people around.

The assassination did not take place at the originally planned time, Peker said, and he was later told by Eken that others had “taken care of the Cyprus issue”.

Eken denied the claims on Thursday, saying he did visit Cyprus around the alleged time and that Peker was with him, but that the visit had nothing to do with Adalı.

“I was appointed by Mehmet Ağar to investigate the increasing activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the island,” he said.  

Irkad had been among the investigators dealing with the St. Barnabas case. That investigation failed to advance due to intervention by a very high-profile military officer, the former chief said in the interview.

“The chief of police in Famagusta was ordered to leave the crime scene, and the investigation could not advance after that,” he said.

Irkad had published articles on the Adalı case in the Yenidüzen newspaper after his retirement. According to the former chief, his writing let to unknown assailants setting fire to his car and home.

The most critical name in the Adalı case is the fourth man on the scene, columnist Sami Özuslu wrote for Yenidüzen.

Özuslu wrote that Irkad knew who the fourth man was, but wouldn’t make his identity public as he was also his source.

In another interview published in the same newspaper, Erinç Aydınova, who was 14 when he discovered Adalı’s dead body, said he had seen a Renault Taurus pass by fast on the day of the murder. Taurus cars were the vehicle of choice for Turkey’s extrajudicial execution squads back in the 1990s.

“When we crossed the road, we saw a man on the ground. As we got to him I saw that his face had been blown to bits,” Aydınova said.

The slain journalist was lying in the middle of the road when Aydınova found him. “Nobody would walk to the middle of a street like that on their own, at that time of the night. Kutlu was ambushed. There must have been somebody he knew with (the assassins), somebody must have called him there.”

Adalı was accused of spying for the Greek Cypriots at the time, Aydınova said. “Such accusations laid the groundwork for the murder.”

“Kutlu had told me before that he had received death threats,” Ömer Köse, a neighbour of the journalist at the time, said in a separate interview with Yenidüzen.

An anonymous voice had been calling Adalı every night at 2 a.m. to tell him that he was “done for”, Köse said.

When the neighbour rushed to the sound of gunshots, he saw “at least 10 policemen, and armed riot police already on the roof at the corner”, he told the newspaper, asking how law enforcement had gotten to the scene minutes after the shooting.

It was late at night, and Adalı was just outside his home. “What was he doing out there, in the middle of the night? Who called him there?” asked Köse.

The neighbours heard two gunshots. “When we looked downstairs, we couldn’t see anything. We just heard a car flee the scene very fast. We saw a body on the ground when we looked again,” Cahide Özüner, another neighbour, told the newspaper.

“He was shot between his eyes. It was a professional hit, definitely intended to kill,” she said.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

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