Turkey convicts Syrian rebel over illicit weapons stash

Turkey convicts Syrian rebel over illicit weapons stash
2 min read
22 May, 2017
Alparslan Celik, who previously boasted on social media of the murder of Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov, was charged after police uncovered an illegal weapons cache during his arrest for murder.
Alparslan Celik, right, was not charged with the murder of the Russian pilot [Facebook]

The man who was accused of killing a Russian bomber-plane pilot, leading to a major diplomatic incident between Russia and Turkey in 2015, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Monday.

Alparslan Celik, a member of the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, was found guilty for the illegal possession of weapons in Izmir, Turkey, but was not tried on a murder charge.

"The court did not raise the issue of his implication in the death of Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov and the investigation continues," Celik's lawyer, Murat Ustundag, told Sputnik News.

A Turkish air-force F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber on 24 November 2015, after Ankara sent repeated warnings to Moscow over its planes routinely violating Turkish airspace.

The incident led to deteriorating relations between the two countries which were only resolved after Turkey's President Erdogan personally apologised for the incident.

All remaining sanctions were finally lifted at the beginning of May 2017.

The two Russian officers on-board the plane both ejected safely, but Peshkov, the pilot, was shot and killed as he parachuted to the ground.

Celik was arrested along with thirteen other people and charged with murder on 31 March 2016, however the public prosecutor dropped all charges 37 days later.

Celik famously boasted of how he and his men had killed Peshkov, but later denied murder charges. All charges against him were dropped after police reviewed video footage of the incident.

Following the arrest, the prosecutor charged Celik with the illegal possession of weapons after police discovered an arms cache in his possession.

As a leader of the Syrian Turkmen brigade, Celik was also a member of the ultranationalist Bozkurtlar [Grey Wolves] group.

Celik had previously told reporters that he was unconcerned for his own safety after it emerged the Russian secret service had allegedly placed him on a kill list.