Turkish man jailed for 12 years for Erdogan assassination attempt

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A Turkish man was sentenced on Friday to almost 12 years in jail for attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he was still prime minister, state media said.

An Istanbul court convicted Ferhat Yildiz of “attempting to kill a public servant” and sentenced him to 11 years and eight months in prison, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Yildiz was found guilty of attempting to assassinate Erdogan during a an event he attended in the Sultanbeyli district on the European side of the city on May 2014.

Citing the indictment, Turkish media said that Yildiz had bought a gun before the event, which he followed via social media for days.

On the day of the incident, the suspect reportedly approached within 3m of Erdogan and pulled the trigger, but the gun failed to fire.

Erdogan’s guards subdued him before he could make a second attempt, the indictment said.

Yildiz told the court that he had staged the attack as “an act of protest” and had no intention of killing Erdogan.

“I set off after his motorcade passed by. It was impossible for me to shoot the prime minister from where I stood. I deeply regret what I did even if it was just a protest,” he was quoted as saying by Anatolia.

Very few details had circulated about the incident at the time.

At Friday’s hearing, judges initially sentenced Yildiz to life in prison, but reduced the sentence because the attempt had failed.

Prosecutors had demanded up to 26 years for him on charges of “planned murder", “insult” and “possession of an unlicensed firearm.”

The indictment said Yildiz had insulted Erdogan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in a series of social media postings before committing the offence.

Opponents accuse Erdogan of increasing megalomania, and the authorities of setting up a cult of personality around the man who has ruled Turkey either as president or prime minister since 2003.

His personal doctor said in March that every meal prepared for Erdogan is rigorously tested both at home and abroad for fear of a possible assassination bid.