x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ex-manager's aide held over shooting of Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises

Press reports attribute the murder attempt to a vendetta between the Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises and Hasan Bora, who managed Tatlises in the 1990s.

ISTANBUL // Turkish authorities said a man had been arrested over the shooting of the Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises, with initial press reports attributing the murder attempt to a vendetta dating to the 1990s.

Tatlises, whose name translates to "sweet voice", is recovering from a gunshot wound to his head while Turkish media and his millions of fans have been analysing the complex details of the high-profile attack.

Abdullah Ucmak, a former aide to an ex-manager of Tatlises, was arrested along with 13 suspected accomplices during co-ordinated raids on 32 different locations in Istanbul on Wednesday. The weapon used in the attack, an assault rifle, as well as the getaway car, were also found, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the governor of Istanbul, told reporters yesterday after visiting Tatlises in hospital.

"We have more than enough evidence directly linking Abdullah Ucmak to the incident," he said. "All those who were in the car used in the attack have been arrested."

Other suspects are accused of doing reconnaissance at the site of the attack one week before the shooting, of hiring the rental car used in the attack and of hiding the weapon, according to news reports.

The attack on Tatlises, 59, one of Turkey's best-known entertainers, has gripped the nation for days. The media have given extensive coverage to the case and newspapers have printed pictures from surveillance cameras taken the moment the shooting happened. Government ministers and opposition politicians alike have flocked to Tatlises' bedside.

According to press reports, Mr Ucmak used to work as an aide to Hasan Bora, who managed Tatlises in the 1990s. Shortly after Mr Bora and Tatlises parted ways in 1998, the manager's office in Istanbul was attacked by gunmen. Mr Ucmak was injured in the attack, which he blamed on Tatlises, and he vowed to take revenge.

"His blood has to flow as well," the daily Radikal newspaper quoted Mr Ucmak as telling a television interviewer in 1998. Asked when the feud would end, Mr Ucmak replied: "Only God knows that. It will go on until the blood of Ibrahim Tatlises flows." Mr Ucmak reportedly received monetary compensation from Tatlises after the office attack, but was not satisfied with the amount.

Mr Ucmak was blamed for an armed attack on Tatlises later in 1998, in which the singer escaped unhurt. He received a seven-year jail sentence for plotting yet another attack on Tatlises in 2003, and was released in September. Eyup Kanat, Tatlises's present manager, told reporters in Istanbul there had been an unsuccessful assassination attempt against the singer two weeks ago.

Ekrem Demirel, Mr Ucmak's lawyer, insisted his client was not involved in the shooting. Given the history of the relationship between Mr Ucmak and Tatlises, it was natural for the police to suspect Mr Ucmak to be behind the attack, Mr Demirel told Turkish media, but added he had spoken to Mr Ucmak before he was arrested. "He told me 'I have nothing to do with this'," Mr Demirel said.

Although most press reports suggested a non-political background to the shooting, which occurred late on Sunday, Mr Mutlu said a possible involvement of Kurdish rebels was also being investigated. "Work is continuing to find the reasons for the attack."

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a rebel group fighting for Kurdish self-rule since 1984, has said it was not responsible and has condemned the attack on Tatlises, a singer of Kurdish descent who is extremely popular in Turkey's Kurdish region and has millions of fans throughout the Middle East.

According to Turkish news reports, a PKK splinter group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, said it carried out the attack, but the TAK itself denied this on Wednesday. The statement saying the TAK had taken responsibility for the attack had been posted on a fake internet site, the group told the pro-Kurdish news agency ANF.

Mr Mutlu said authorities would still investigate possible links to Kurdish rebels. "The statement of the organisation named TAK is important," Mr Mutlu said, in reference to the alleged claim of responsibility. Still, he refrained from blaming the Kurdish militants outright.

Mr Mutlu said Tatlises would be asked for his own statement in connection with the shooting as soon as he was well enough. The governor said the singer's condition was improving. "He shook our hands to greet us," Mr Mutlu said about his visit at the singer's hospital bed. News reports said Tatlises told onlookers: "I am well."

There has been much speculation in the Turkish press about whether Tatlises will be able to return to the stage once he is released from hospital. One newspaper, Milliyet, yesterday quoted a US neurosurgeon, Michael Lemole, as saying it was possible that Tatlises would be able to sing again.

Dr Lemole became famous as one of the surgeons treating US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during an attack in Arizona in January. According to Milliyet, Dr Lemole has not ruled out coming to Turkey to offer advice on how to treat Tatlises if he is invited by his doctors.

 

tseibert@thenational.ae