Nine years on: No solid steps taken in Hrant Dink assassination
İsmail Saymaz – ISTANBUL
AA PhotoNo solid legal steps have been taken in the nine years since Armenian-origin journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated outside his office in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007, as thousands of people gathered to commemorate the late Agos editor-in-chief on the anniversary of his death.
The large crowd filed past the military museum in the Şişli district at around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 to walk toward the Agos office building to read a statement at the site where Dink was shot dead by triggerman Ogün Samast nine years ago.
Accompanied by water cannons and armored vehicles, police took intense security measures along the route of the march as well as around the office of weekly Agos in Şişli’s Osmanbey neighborhood.
A poster reading “we are here Ahparig, with longing, anger and determination!” was placed on the outer walls of the office building. “Ahparig” means “my brother” in Armenian.
In legal terms, only one lawsuit has been filed into Dink’s assassination, while an ongoing investigation was launched separately against 26 public officials into negligence at the time of the killing. None of the 26 probed officials, including former and current police chiefs, have yet been tried.
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.
When Dink was murdered, the 26 officials were on duty in police departments in Istanbul, Ankara and the Black Sea province of Trabzon, from which Samast came to Istanbul before shooting the prominent journalist in the head nine years ago. Samast was sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in prison after being tried in a juvenile court as he was 17 at the time of the shooting death of Dink.
Samast’s killing of Dink was incited by Yasin Hayal, who in 2004 carried out a bomb attack with collaborator Erhan Tuncel targeting a McDonalds restaurant in Trabzon on the grounds that it was selling food during the Islam-holy month of Ramadan.
Hayal, who like Tuncel is a former member of a far-right political party and a right-wing nationalist youth group, was sentenced to life in prison for inciting Dink’s murder. Tuncel had been appointed as an Assistant Intelligence Officer at the Trabzon Police Department and informed police a year before Dink’s murder that Hayal had been planning to murder him. This information was then conveyed to the three police departments in Istanbul.
The investigation launched into the negligence of public officials at the time of Dink’s murder is still ongoing, with 26 current and former police officers stated as suspects in the indictment. The indictment prepared by Gökalp Kökçü, an Istanbul prosecutor who has also been in charge of terrorism-related investigations, was approved by the Istanbul 14th Court for Serious Crimes after it was presented on Dec. 9, 2015.
However, Kökçü was appointed to a department dealing with non-terrorism-related criminal activities as part of his job rotation system within the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, meaning that he was not able to head the investigation into the negligence of public officials in Dink’s murder.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office had returned the indictment to Kökçü in early November last year, arguing that “evidence that some of the suspects committed ‘deliberate murder’ could not be proven.”
Lawyers representing the Dink family reacted against the indictment returned to Kökçü, which meant that cases will likely not be opened against the suspects.
Hakan Bakırcıoğlu, a Dink family lawyer, said on Nov. 4 last year that not opening a case against former police chiefs Ahmet İlhan Güler, Celalettin Cerrah, Reşat Altay, Engin Dinç and other suspects, would exclude their integral responsibility in Dink’s murder.
Recalling the first two versions of the indictment, the latest one drafted in late October last year, Bakırcıoğlu said the two indictments charged former police chiefs Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Ramazan Akyürek, Tamer Bülent Demirel and Osman Gülbel each with “deliberate murder,” Engin Dinç, Reşat Altay and Ahmet İlhan Güler each with “deliberate murder with negligence,” and Sabri Uzun and Celalettin Cerrah each with “malpractice on public duty.”
“Despite resistance and barriers in front of the interrogation and investigation of public servants who took part in Dink’s murder, they were interrogated and investigated by the prosecutor [in charge of the case],” Bakırcıoğlu said.