PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors have filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against a Turkish citizen who worked as a driver for one of three Kurdish activists who were gunned down this month in Paris, an official said Monday.
The suspect, identified as Omer Guney, 30, drove for the most prominent victim, Sakine Cansiz, a woman in her 50s who helped found the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a rebel group seeking autonomy for Turkey's Kurds. Guney has told investigators he has been a member of the PKK for two years, Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.
There is "serious and corroborating evidence" to show that Guney had a role in the Jan. 9 killings, Molins said.
The preliminary charges of murder in connection with a terrorist operation and conspiracy in connection with a terrorist operation were filed against Guney, who is being detained, Molins said. This opens the way to a fuller investigation which would lead to formal charges, if sufficient evidence is found. If there is not enough evidence to support suspicions, the preliminary charges will be dropped.
Guney maintains his innocence.
The conflict in Turkey between the PKK and government forces has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984. Recently, Turkish officials have been holding talks with the PKK in an effort to persuade it to disarm. And Turkey's government has said those opposed to such talks may have been involved in the Paris killings.
Molins said video cameras show that Guney was inside the Kurdish Information Center in the 10th district of Paris on Jan. 9 at the time investigators believe the killings occurred there: between 12:43 p.m. and 1:21 p.m. The prosecutor said 10 shots were fired — four into the head of one of the victims and three into the heads of the other two.
Murder weapons have not been found, but investigators believe only one was used in the attack. The investigators say they found a bag in Guney's car that had traces of gun powder on it, and that police say the bag may have been carrying a gun.
Video evidence from a nearby store, a parking garage and elsewhere shows Guney entering the Kurdish Information Center with Cansiz at 11:29 a.m. He left briefly to return to a nearby parking garage and was seen returning to the center at 12:11 p.m., the prosecutor said. Guney was in the center, where the bodies were found for about 45 minutes, leaving at 12:56 p.m., Molins said.
Investigators place the time of deaths at between 12:43 p.m. and 1:21 p.m.
When confronted with the video evidence of his presence at the center, Guney initially told police he had "forgotten" to tell them he had returned to the center, Molins. Later, Guney claimed the videotapes must have been manipulated, according to the prosecutor.
The other two victims were identified as Leyla Soylemez and Fidan Dogan, Kurdish activists in their 20s.
Many Kurds flocked to Paris from Germany and Turkey to mourn the deaths of the three women.