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Turkish court sentences six military officials to prison in Dink trial

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wired | 6/2/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Six of eight suspects being tried on charges of negligence in preventing the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink have been sentenced to prison by a court in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.

The 2nd Trabzon Criminal Court of Peace handed down prison sentences of six months each to Trabzon Gendarmerie Commander Col. Ali Öz and Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit Director Cpt. Metin Yıldız.

Non-Commissioned Officers, or NCOs, Veysel Şahin, Okan Şimşek, Hacı Ömer Ünalır and Hüseyin Yılmaz were each sentenced to four months in jail for the same charges. Two other military personnel were acquitted by the court.

The suspects were accused of assisting the murderers at the time the plan to assassinate Dink was being hatched.

Retired Lt. Col. Ali Oğuz Çağlar, a former Trabzon gendarmerie public security branch director, also confirmed the testimonies of the two gendarmes.

“Two of our intelligence officers worked hard to obtain for me highly credible information that the murder was likely to happen, and they passed the information to the troop commander, Col. Ali Öz, but the commander, either knowingly or unknowingly, did not proceed with the procedures he had to go through after obtaining such information,” he earlier told the court.

Çağlar said that upon receiving the intelligence, Öz had said, "Let's talk about this later," and the matter was not discussed again. People who attended the briefing where the intelligence was discussed later debated about "how such information can be disregarded."

Çağlar also said that, as the news of Dink's murder was revealed on television on Jan. 19, 2007, that Öz had told them in the next briefing that informant Coşkun İğci should be contacted and silenced.

İğci, who testified for the first time on July 7, 2008, is the uncle of Dink murder suspect Yasin Hayal. İğci said he tried to prevent Hayal from murdering Dink but could not, so he informed officials and gendarmerie officials, who told him that they had already been monitoring Hayal.

Ogün Samast has confessed to gunning down Dink outside his newspaper's Istanbul office in January 2007, but the ensuing investigation has been highly controversial. The investigation made it obvious that the young man had not acted alone but was in fact driven by a group of people whom he called “older brothers” and who had plotted to commit the act for more than a year.

In addition to suspicious links between the suspects and security institutions, lawyers representing the Dink family at various times have accused the police of destroying vital evidence and concealing crucial information from the court and the prosecution.

Dink family lawyers said the Trabzon suspects had had prior knowledge about a plot to kill Dink since July 2006 but had failed to take the necessary measures, suggesting that they had personal relations with the suspects in Dink's murder, the trial for which is continuing at Istanbul's 14th High Criminal Court.

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