Fugitive airline partner captured after 17 years

Yavuz Çizmeci, a partner in the company that leased the plane involved in a deadly 2007 crash in the southern province of Isparta, was apprehended at Istanbul Airport on May 16, after 17 years on the run.

The Atlasjet passenger plane flying from Istanbul to Isparta crashed on Nov. 30, 2007, while landing at Süleyman Demirel Airport, killing 57 people, including seven crew members. Following the tragedy, a public case was opened against 20 individuals, including senior personnel from World Focus Airlines, the leasing company. Çizmeci, sentenced to 11 years and eight months in prison for negligent homicide, had been missing since the accident.

Airport authorities flagged Çizmeci's suspicious behavior while attempting to board a flight to the southern province of Gaziantep. He presented a fake identification card, leading to his arrest.

The black box of the doomed flight was sent to Germany for investigation and revealed a landing gear malfunction attributed to pilot error. However, a separate report by Turkish experts pointed to pilot fatigue, inexperience and a faulty Ground Approach Warning System (EGPWS) as contributing factors.

Among those who died in the accident were Prof. Dr. Engin Arık from Boğaziçi University, Prof. Dr. Şenel Boydağ, the head of the Department of Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Doğuş University, Assoc. Prof. Dr. İskender Hikmet, research assistants Mustafa Fidan, Özgen Berkol Doğan and postgraduate student Engin Abat, who were on their way to attend a workshop of the 'Turkish Accelerator Center' project.

Arık was playing a particularly active role in the project to establish a CERN-like particle acceleration laboratory in Türkiye. This fueled speculation of sabotage, although never substantiated.

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