Local intel police officer warned of Dink murder ‘10 months in advance’
REUTERS photoA former intelligence police officer on trial for negligence in the murder of slain journalist Hrant Dink said in his defense on June 20 that he had notified the state of Dink’s imminent murder “10 months before the incident,” during the fifth hearing of a court trying some 35 suspected state officials.
A public prosecutor demanded a life sentence for Muhittin Zenit, an officer at the provincial bureau of intelligence in the Black Sea province of Trabzon at the time of Dink’s murder, for “voluntary manslaughter” by withholding intelligence information that could have prevented the assassination.
In his defense in the fifth hearing of the trial, Zenit denied the allegations and said he “performed his intelligence duties in the best possible way” while he was on duty in Trabzon.
“I prepared reports stating that Yasin Hayal had a big grudge against Armenians and that he would kill Dink no matter what,” Zenit said, referring to the instigator of Dink’s murderer, Ogün Samast.
Hayal was also responsible for a 2004 bomb attack targeting a McDonald’s restaurant in Trabzon for selling food during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, accompanied by his collaborator, Erhan Tuncel, who turned out to be a “deputy intelligence officer.”
In his testimony, Zenit also referred to a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling, suggesting that Trabzon police notified Istanbul police that Hayal was capable of murdering Dink but the latter failed to take action with regards to the information.
“I notified my state of the [imminent] murder [of Dink] 10 months in advance,” Zenit said.
“In which other way could I have stated in my reports that Dink was to be murdered?” he added, before apologizing to Dink’s wife Rakel Dink for failing to protect her slain husband.
“Hrant Dink was not a person who harmed this country, that’s why he was targeted. He was chosen as a target due to something he said and he was brought to death step by step,” Zenit told the court, saying he owed an apology to only one person – Rakel Dink.
Meanwhile, a group of Hrant Dink’s colleagues and rights activists named “Hrant’s Friends” once again gathered in front of the courthouse in Istanbul’s Çağlayan neighborhood and criticized as “hardly believable” the testimony of former Trabzon Police Chief Reşat Altay during the previous hearing of the trial. Trabzon’s police chief at the time of Dink’s assassination in 2007, Altay, denied the charges against him for “negligence in public duty” and demanded his acquittal during the fourth hearing of the trial on May 26, claiming that important information was withheld from him on purpose by other members of the police organization.
Altay claimed important information was withheld from him on purpose, blaming the purported “parallel state” for allegedly keeping him in the dark.
“We demanded nine years for the trial of the public official who had a responsibility in the murder,” journalist Pınar Öğünç said, speaking on behalf of Hrant’s Friends, adding they did not consider Altay’s testimony “believable.”
Öğünç reiterated their determination to continue a legal battle against negligent state officials.
Relatives and followers of the case have claimed government officials, police, military personnel and members of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) played a role in Dink’s murder by neglecting their duty to protect the journalist.
Turkey’s top court in July 2014 ruled that the investigation into the killing had been flawed, paving the way for the trial of the police officials.
All the names of the suspects implicated in the investigation were reported to have been on duty in police departments in Istanbul, Ankara and Trabzon at the time of Dink’s murder.
Dink, 52, was shot dead with two bullets to the head in broad daylight outside the offices of Agos in central Istanbul on January 19, 2007.
Samast, then a 17-year-old jobless high-school dropout, confessed to the murder and he was sentenced to almost 23 years in jail in 2011.
But the case grew into a wider scandal after it emerged that the security forces had been aware of a plot to kill Dink but failed to act.