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Newspaper editor Hrant Dink’s accused killer could be free within 12 months

The killer: Arrested on January 20, 2007 at a station in the northern city of Samsun while attempting to return to his home town of Trabzon, Ogün Samast (centre) has since been held in a detention centre in Kandira, to the south of Istanbul.Photo: haberler.com

Ogün Samast, the youth who is accused of fatally shooting Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish editor of the weekly Agos, outside his office in Istanbul on January 19, 2007, could be released within 12 months as a result of the extremely slow pace at which his murder trial is proceeding, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

Arrested on January 20, 2007 at a station in the northern city of Samsun while attempting to return to his home town of Trabzon, Samast has since been held in a detention centre in Kandira, to the south of Istanbul. He and 19 other people, including accused masterminds Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, are being tried on charges of murdering Dink and membership of a terrorist group. It is widely suspected that the true masterminds are to found within state apparatus but the slow-moving trial has shed no light on their identity.

During the hearing on October 25, 2010, the Istanbul court conducting the trial suddenly decided that Samast would have to be tried before a special court for minors on the grounds that he was only 17 at the time of the murder. However, according to Turkey’s criminal procedure code (CMK), a minor must be released after five years if he has not been convicted and his conviction has not been upheld by an appeal court. Under this law, Samast could therefore be released in January 2012.

The transfer of Samast’s case to another court is just the latest of many setbacks in the trial of Dink’s accused murderers. The Dink family’s lawyer, Fethiye Cetin, issued a report on January 6 condemning the lack of progress. She said it was clear that the Trabzon police and gendarmerie, the Istanbul police and the police intelligence department had done everything possible to conceal evidence that could implicate them in the murder.

She told RSF: “This murder was not the work of four or five youths who acted spontaneously out of nationalistic impulses. It was also not a matter of a few functionaries who infiltrated the state apparatus to eliminate Hrant Dink. The state is implicated at all levels, beginning with the army high command, the judicial system, the government, the police, the media and paramilitary forces. All the political actors had a role in his murder, either to cover it up or to prevent the identification of those who were truly responsible.”

The second prosecution of Nedim Sener, a journalist with the newspaper Milliyet who wrote the book The Dink murder and intelligence agency lies, shows the degree to which the Turkish authorities are worried about attempt to investigate who was behind Dink’s murder. Sener is facing a possible 12-year sentence on charges of violating the confidentiality of private correspondence, criminal insult and trying to influence the course of trial. Fortunately he was released on December 23, 2010 pending the outcome of the trial.

The evidence in his book was used by the European Court of Human Rights in reaching its September 14, 2010 decision ordering Turkey to pay Dink’s family 133,595 euros in compensation and legal costs for failing to protect Dink when it had information about the plots to kill him. The court also ruled that no effective and independent investigation had been carried out to determine the role of state agents in his murder.

The foot-dragging and irregularities marking the Dink murder trial have highlighted the double standards of the Turkish judicial system, which is very quick to convicts journalists of propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization but very slow to try those accused of murdering a journalist.

As regards Samast, who turned 18 more than two years ago, RSF pointed out that the trial was held behind closed doors until he came of age, so that his rights as a minor could be respected. It is extremely worrying for efforts to combat impunity that this accused killer, who until now has shown no remorse, could be released in this manner.

"If the conduct of the trial results in his release, it is highly unlikely that the real masterminds will ever be tried and convicted. With the fourth anniversary of Dink’s murder due to be commemorated in just a week’s time, justice must finally be rendered to this journalist and his family," RSF said.

The next hearing in the trial is due to be held on February 7.

Date posted: January 12, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 107