Ugur Mumcu

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On January 24, 1993, Ugur Mumcu, 51, a reporter and columnist for the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was killed by a car bomb while he was in his vehicle outside his home in Ankara, according to media reports.

Mumcu, whose coverage included Islamic fundamentalism, drug and gun smuggling, and the Kurdish separatist movement, was a staunch supporter of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey; before his death, Mumcu had been researching the alleged connection between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist rebel group in Turkey, and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). He had received numerous death threats, according to media reports.

Several Islamic groups initially claimed responsibility for Mumcu’s death, including the Islamic Liberation Organization, Raiders of Islamic Great East, and Islamic Jihad, according to media reports.

In July 2000, Turkish police found a sketch of Mumcu’s house during a raid on an outlawed pro-Iran Islamist organization Tevhid Selam in Istanbul, according to media reports. That led to a trial on Mumcu’s death and two other assassinations, with 17 defendants, according to reports, which said the court found that Ferhan Özmen prepared the bomb that killed Mumcu, and Oğuz Demir placed it in his car, while Necdet Yüksel served as a lookout; it sentenced Özmen and Demir to life in prison without parole.

Demir was on the run at the time of the trial and had not been apprehended as of mid-2021. In January 2021, Ankara police received a tip that Demir had returned to Turkey under a false identity, according to a report by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Demir is being tried in absentia by the Fifth Ankara Court of Serious crimes with the next hearing set to October 5, 2021, according to Bianet.  

Mumcu’s family does not believe justice has been done, according to the Uğur Mumcu Foundation, which calls for the organizers behind the killing to be tried, saying, “This file cannot be closed unless the real perpetrators behind the murder, not the ones presented to the society as the perpetrators, are revealed.”

Özgür Mumcu, the journalist’s son, said in a 2010 interview with news website T24 that he did not believe Islamists killed his father, instead suspecting either counter-insurgency forces or the PKK. The son said he did not have any proof of who was behind his father’s killing, but noted that his father did not write much about secularism or political Islam, and was more focused on covering alleged ties between the PKK and MİT before his death.

The journalist’s widow, Güldal Mumcu, said in a 2012 interview with the daily Milliyet that she believed the Turkish state killed her husband, citing an interaction with a government prosecutor.

“The murder was committed on January 24,” she said. “The prosecutor spoke to me on February 18: ‘Do not come to me. This job is done by the state. The ruling power may solve it if it wants to.”

In May 2021, Sedat Peker, a previously convicted organized crime leader and former Turkish government ally who later left the country, started posting online videos featuring allegations against government figures, according to reports.

In a May 23 video, Peker argued that Mumcu was not killed by Islamists but by the Turkish government, due to his reporting on narcotics production and smuggling. Peker implied that Mehmet Ağar, who was the national chief of police at the time of Mumcu’s killing and later headed the ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs, was involved in the killing.

“You may agree or disagree with his opinion[s], I say he was a martyr,” Peker said in the video. He went on to say “Uğur Mumcu was martyred, who arrives first at the scene? It was Mehmet Ağar who first arrived at the scene after the attack.”

Ağar was interviewed by the ultranationalist daily Sözcü on May 12, 2021, but did not comment on the Mumcu case. Instead, he denied other accusations Peker had made about his alleged wrongdoing.

CPJ was unable to contact information for Ağar. CPJ emailed his son, parliamentary deputy Tolga Ağar, but did not receive any reply.

CPJ emailed the Justice Ministry of Turkey for comment but did not receive any reply.

CPJ joined 17 other international rights organizations on June 16 in sending public letters to Turkey’s Justice Minister and opposition parties for further investigation in the unsolved killings of Mumcu and Kutlu Adalı, Northern Cyprus journalist who was shot and killed in 1996. Peker claimed in his May 23 video that Ağar had a role in Adalı’s slaying as well.