On July 6, 1996, Kutlu Adalı, 61, a political columnist with the leftist newspaper Yeni Düzen was fatally shot in front of his home in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, according to media reports.
After Adalı’s death, an anonymous man called the Kıbrıs Postası to claim responsibility, saying the ultranationalist Turkish Revenge Brigade had ordered the killing, according to the human rights group IFEX. An investigation into Adalı’s shooting by Northern Cypriot authorities shortly after he was killed was inconclusive and resulted in no convictions, according to media reports.
Adalı had written critically about the Northern Cypriot government’s policies enabling Turkish nationals to live and work in Cyprus. One of his stories, originally published by Yeni Düzen on March 23, 1996, and republished by the independent news website Bianet in 2001, questioned whether local Turkish occupation authorities and soldiers had been involved in the pillaging of the historical St. Barnabas Monastery on March 14.
On June 3, 2021, Northern Cyprus newspaper Kıbrıs Postası published a threatening letter that had been allegedly been sent to Adalı before he was killed. The letter, whose author was not identified, accused the journalist of publishing “pro-Greek” stories and warned that he should “correct your insults.” Cyprus has divided between a Turkish-backed north and an internationally recognized government led by Greek Cypriots in the south since Turkey invaded the island in 1974.
In 1997, İlkay Adalı, the journalist’s widow, asked the European Court of Human Rights to investigate Turkish authorities’ handling of the case, as CPJ documented at the time. In 2002, while the court was considering the case, unidentified people tried to break into her house, and her dog was found killed, according to reports.
The court issued a verdict in 2005, which stated that Turkish-backed authorities failed to carry out “an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the applicant’s husband.” In that ruling, the court ordered Turkey to pay 20,000 euros (US $24,000) to the widow in damages and 68,000 euros (US $80,000) for expenses.
The court ruling stated that it was “not in dispute that the applicant’s husband was the victim of an unlawful killing,” but said the evidence did not “beyond reasonable doubt [prove] that agents of the State carried out, or were otherwise implicated in, the killing.”
In May 2021, Sedat Peker, a previously convicted organized crime leader and former Turkish government ally who later left the country, posted a series of videos online criticizing government figures, according to reports. In a May 23 video, Peker accused Mehmet Ağar, the Turkish Interior Affairs Minister at the time of the Adalı’s death, and Korkut Eken, a former officer with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), of being behind the journalist’s killing.
In that video, Peker said that Eken told him that “there is a man in Cyprus who wants to sell Cyprus to the Greeks,” and asked him for “two professionals” to kill him. Peker said he gave the task to his brother, Atilla Peker, who flew to Cyprus with Eken. However, they were unable to carry out the assassination and returned to Turkey several days later, Peker said.
Later, “another team under [Eken and Ağar’s] authority” killed the journalist, Peker said, adding that Eken told him afterwards, “That job is done.”
Peker said in the video that, if he or his brother had killed Adalı, “I would say that we did kill him because it is not within the statute of limitations.”
Eken and Ağar were both previously imprisoned for “establishing an armed organization to commit crimes” unrelated to Adalı’s killing, according to reports. Eken was imprisoned in 2002 and released two and a half years later, and Ağar was convicted in 2011 and served about a year in prison before being released in 2013, according to news reports.
Following the release of Sedat Peker’s videos, Turkish authorities took Atilla Peker into custody on May 23, 2021, and he testified to that he went with Eken to Northern Cyprus in March or April 1996 with the intent of killing Adalı, but said they were unable to find the right opportunity to do so, according to reports. Atilla said Eken provided him with a gun, they traveled under false names, and said he had later heard from Eken that the job was done, those reports said.
Galip Mendi, a retired general who was commissioned in Northern Cyprus at the time, confirmed in a May 25 interview with the ultranationalist news website Odatv that Atilla and Eken were on the island together in 1996.
In a May 27 interview, Eken admitted to flying to Northern Cyprus with Atilla at the time, but denied having to do anything with the killing, claiming he did not know who Adalı was.
In an interview on May 12, Ağar denied other allegations by Sedat Peker about his alleged unethical behavior, but did not address any allegations involving Adalı; CPJ was unable to find any public statements from Ağar on the case following the May 23 video.
On May 27, the Northern Cyprus parliament formed an investigation committee on Adalı’s killing, local outlet BRT reported. The chief prosecutor’s office of Anatolia, Turkey, announced on June 1 that it had also started a new investigation in light of Atilla’s testimony, reports said.
After being questioned by prosecutors on June 2, Atilla was released under judicial control with a foreign travel ban, reports said.
CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office of Anatolia for comment, but did not receive any reply.
CPJ emailed the Northern Cyprus parliament for comment and received a reply in August 2021. The parliament informed CPJ that two parliamentary commissions were founded in 1996 and 2000 to look into the murder but neither were able to come to a conclusion, and the minutes of the commissions’ meetings were secret. The parliament unanimously agreed on May 27, 2021, that a third committee would be founded to look into the murder, but that committee had yet to be founded as of August 2021, according to the email sent to CPJ.
CPJ was unable to find a way to contact Ağar for comment. CPJ sent an email to his son, parliamentary deputy Tolga Ağar, but received no immediate reply. CPJ was unable to find a way to contact Eken for comment.
CPJ joined 17 other international rights organizations on June 16, 2021, in sending public letters to Turkey’s Justice Minister and opposition parties for further investigation in the unsolved killings of Adalı and Uğur Mumcu, a Turkish journalist who was slain with a car bomb in Turkey in 1993. Sedat Peker claimed in his May 23 video that Ağar also had a role in the Mumcu killing.