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Encouraging developments in Hrant Dink murder trial

It's been four years: Family members, colleagues and friends gather to commemorate Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origine who was killed outside the office of his newspaper, Agos, four years ago, in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, January 19, 2011. The placards read: "Hrant, absent for the last 4 years."

There was modest progress at the latest hearing in the trial of 19 people charged with the murder of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who was gunned down outside his office in Istanbul in January 2007, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

Prosecutors announced at the hearing, held on February 7, that a preliminary investigation has been launched into some 30 senior members of the Istanbul and Trabzon police and the intelligence services in connection with Dink’s murder. Trabzon is the northeastern city where most of the defendants are from.

Like the European Union representatives and observers from the Paris and Brussels bar associations who attended the hearing, the 16th since the start of the trial, RSF said it will monitor the coming hearings closely in the hope that all those involved in the murder will finally be brought to trial.

“We hope that this first step will be followed by further progress,” RSF said. “This case has been dragging on for four years. This trial will only have a positive outcome if the political obstacles are lifted and all the accomplices of the murderers are tried, regardless of the positions they hold.”

Despite the interior minister’s denials, one of the Dink family’s lawyers confirmed to RSF that those who are to be investigated include former Istanbul governor Muammer Güler, former Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah, former Istanbul police intelligence chief Ahmet Ilhan Güler and former Trabzon police chief Ramazan Akyürek.

It is nonetheless regrettable that the court again refused to combine the Istanbul case with a parallel case in Trabzon in which Col. Ali Öz, the head of the Trabzon gendarmerie, is accused of negligence for failing to act on prior information that there was a plot to kill Dink.

Interior minister Besir Atalay insisted yesterday that his subordinates were not being investigated. “There is a complaint but no investigation is being conducted way for the time being,” His denial showed that the required political will is still lacking in keys areas of the government.

On September 14, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to effective legal recourse in connection with the Dink murder. The ruling was upheld on December 14 after the Turkish government – in another very positive sign – decided not to appeal.

In yet another positive development, an Istanbul administrative court recently ordered the interior ministry to pay damages to Dink’s two brothers for “serious deficiencies in their duties” on the part of the police.

As a result of the European Court of Human Rights ruling, the Dink family’s lawyers filed a new request with the Istanbul prosecutor’s office on January 17 for the prosecution of all the officials who failed to take appropriate measures in response to prior information about the Dink murder plot.

In a petition that was passed to the court, they also called for all of the failures identified by the European Court to be taken into account in the trial and for responsibility to be apportioned, as required by the ruling.

As well as observers from the Paris and Brussels bar associations, the February 7 hearing was also watched by Hélène Flautre, co-president of the EU-Turkey mixed parliamentary commission, Ali Yurttagül, an adviser to the Greens group in the European Parliament, and Turkey-EU delegation political adviser Sema Kiliçer.

RSF was one of the signatories of a letter calling for justice in the Dink case that was drafted by members of the Paris and Brussels bar associations and was published in the French daily Le Monde on January 20.

The court is meanwhile still waiting for the Scientific Research Institute (TÜBITAK) to say whether it is technically possible to restore a bank security camera’s recording of the shooting that was deliberately erased.

Summonses were issued yesterday for 10 people who are to give evidence as witnesses of the murder. The prosecutor’s office also issued a warning that police officials who had failed in their duty to carry out investigations would be prosecuted. The court also decided that two of the leading defendants, Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, will remain in detention.

The next hearing is due to be held on March 28.

Meanwhile, the trial of Ogün Samast, the alleged gunman, is due to begin before an Istanbul court for minors on February 28. Samast’s case was transferred to this court on 25 October 2010 on the grounds that he was 17 at the time of the shooting.

Date posted: February 10, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 101