26 former police officers on trial in Hrant Dink’s murder

26 former police officers on trial in Hrant Dink’s murder

26 former police officers on trial in Hrant Dink’s murder

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A total of 26 former police officers, including former police chiefs, went on trial on April 19 on charges of negligence in the 2007 assassination of prominent Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink that sent shockwaves around the country.

The suspects are accused of “negligence on public duty” in the shooting of Dink, the editor-in-chief of weekly Agos and an advocate of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, who was shot dead outside the newspaper’s offices in Istanbul’s central Şişli district on Jan. 19, 2007.

A total of 34 suspects – including eight who are under arrest – went on trial in the first hearing at the Istanbul 14th Court of Serious Crimes, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Among those on trial are former national police intelligence chief Ramazan Akyürek, former Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah and former Istanbul police intelligence chief İlhan Güler.

Also among those on trial on April 19 was Ercan Demir, who was the police intelligence chief in the Black Sea province of Trabzon where the gunman, Ogün Samast, came from.

Another prominent suspect, former top Istanbul police official Ali Fuat Yılmazer, was already under arrest as part of investigations into the “Fethullahist Terror Organization” (FETÖ), a purported terror group accused of trying to overthrow Turkey’s government that is allegedly led by U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, the AKP’s ally-turned-foe.

There have been numerous indications that the authorities want to emphasize the alleged links between the suspects and Gülen, whose followers are the subject of a major nationwide crackdown.

According to initial reports, the defendants in the case demanded a recusal of the judge, although the outcome of the move remains unclear.    

Meanwhile, a group of rights activists named “Hrant’s Friends” gathered in front the courthouse in Istanbul’s Çağlayan neighborhood and reiterated their determination to demand justice for the slain journalist.

“We will be at Çağlayan courthouse to follow the hearings that are planned to continue for three days,” the group said in a statement. 

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 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.