Erhan Tuncel, the suspected instigator of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, recently met with Mehmet Ali Ağca, who attempted to assassinate the late Pope John Paul II in 1981.
Tuncel was fugitive at the time but “hiding” in Istanbul’s coastal town of Kumburgaz, although locals and police were aware of his identity, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Tuncel, who was arrested by Istanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court on Oct. 24, first met Ağca in a café during his recent period in hiding and told him, “I am one of your biggest fans,” according to an eyewitness whose name was kept anonymous by the daily.
The duo then met on a number of subsequent occasions in the same place, witnesses said.
The cafe by the sea was being managed by Tuncel’s fellow townsmen from the southeastern Turkish province of Elazığ, and Tuncel generally spent his days in Kumburgaz reading books by the sea, according to reports.
Ağca and Tuncel had “long hours of talks” at the café, according to the witness.
“He had two mobile phones, his cigarettes and books. He would not talk too much. We would see him talking to his fellow townsmen from Elazığ and occasionally with the police. Policemen would call him ‘Mr. Erhan,’” an eyewitness told the daily.
Tuncel was captured by police on Oct. 23 as he was out doing his “daily jogging.” The court decided to arrest him the next day.
He had spent 38 days on the run, but he claims that he was hiding out in order to prepare his defense.
Tuncel moved to Kumburgaz after being released by the court on Jan. 12, 2012. He rented a villa by the sea and spent the summer in the town, but Kumburgaz locals said he had been away from his house after a new arrest warrant was issued for him. The villa’s owner is still unknown.
Tuncel was an informant in the Black Sea province of Trabzon ahead of the murder of Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos who was shot dead in broad daylight in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007.
The trial concerning the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink restarted in September, and the court subsequently issued an arrest warrant for Tuncel.
Tuncel is seen as key in linking the murder to the state institutions, as members of the police department in Trabzon, the hometown of the suspects, have been accused of failing to relay intelligence provided by Tuncel to the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command, in a report prepared by Turkey’s State Supervisory Council (DDK).