Fugitive suspect in Hrant Dink murder case arrested in Istanbul
Erhan Tuncel (C), the suspected instigator of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was captured in a police operation Oct 23. DHA photoErhan Tuncel, the suspected instigator of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, has been arrested by Istanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court, a day after he was captured by the police in the city’s Kumburgaz district.
The court decided to arrest Tuncel on Oct. 24, a day after he was captured in a villa where he was hiding out, having spent 38 days on the run, Doğan news agency reported. He claimed that he was not on the run but rather had been preparing his defense.
“I had reported these convicts [convicted of the murder] 18 times in order to prevent their action. I met with the convicts many times to convince them not to commit this action,” said Tuncel in his defense. Tuncel also demanded his release, however, the court decided on his arrest on the grounds that he might leave the country.
Tuncel’s lawyer Erdoğan Soruklu told the Hürriyet Daily News Oct. 24 that they had expected the decision of arrest and said they would object to the decision.
Tuncel was captured in a police operation on the same day as an interview was published in daily Star, in which he said he would surrender in 15 days.
“This is the price of having served my country,” Tuncel told reporters as he was taken into custody by police officers.
“It is an honor to be arrested on the day Adnan Menderes was hanged,” he also said, in reference to the former Turkish prime minister who was sentenced to death in the Yassıada trials that took place after the 1960 military coup.
“I will surrender when I complete my defense,” he said in the interview at daily Star. “I will reveal the names I am in contact with. The gendarmerie forces have a big role in the Dink murder … I am not running away, I am preparing a detailed defense with my application to the European Court of Human Rights and planning to complete it within 15 days, I will surrender right after completing this.”
Tuncel also said there was another organization within the state “higher than Ergenekon [an allegedly shadowy organization accused of planning to overthrow the Turkish government], that is being prevented from shedding light on this murder. I am a little piece of all these.”
He particularly pointed to the Black Sea province of Trabzon’s police department and gendarmerie.
The trial concerning the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink had restarted in Istanbul on Sept. 17 this year following an overturning from the Supreme Court of Appeals after six years of legal procedures. The court had issued an arrest warrant for Tuncel.
Tuncel was an informant in the Black Sea province of Trabzon ahead of the murder of Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos who was shot dead in broad daylight in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007.
Earlier in the case on Jan. 17, 2012, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court had ruled to exonerate the 19 suspects from “being members of a terrorist organization.”
Arrested suspect Yasin Hayal had received aggravated life imprisonment for instigating the murder and police informant and suspect in the murder Erhan Tuncel was sentenced to one year and three months in prison.
Ogün Samast, who pulled the trigger, was a minor at the time and was sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison. Due to the fact that Tuncel had already served time in connection to a 10 year and six month sentence issued for an explosion at a McDonald’s restaurant, he was released.
Tuncel is seen as a key in linking the murder to the state institutions as members of the police department in Trabzon, the hometown of the suspects, have been accused of failing to relay intelligence provided by Tuncel to the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command in a report prepared by Turkey’s State Supervisory Council (DDK).
The triggerman, Ogün Samast, 17-years-old at the time of the murder, and Yasin Hayal, who was charged of being the instigator of the assassination, were convicted of the murder. However, a high criminal court dismissed charges related to an “armed terrorist organization” being involved. The Supreme Court of Appeals verdict defined the acts of all suspects in the case under “an organization formed to commit crime” according to Turkish Penal Code Article 220.