Dink murder suspect denies links to ‘witness’

Dink murder suspect denies links to ‘witness’

İsmail Saymaz ISTANBUL/Radikal
Dink murder suspect denies links to ‘witness’

Journalist Hrant Dink was killed on Jan 19, 2007, in central Istanbul.

Erhan Tuncel, a former police informant and suspect in the murder case of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, denied recent claims by an informant that they had planned the murder together.

An inmate, referred to as M.A., claiming to have information on Dink’s killers recently sent a letter to prosecutors.

“I don’t know M.A. I have never been to Ardeşen and Istanbul. That person is lying,” Tuncel told daily Radikal yesterday. Tuncel, released by the court in the Dink case, claims that his rights were violated and he will apply to the European Court of Human Rights.

The informant, who is allegedly serving a prison sentence in Turkey’s Tokat province in Central Anatolia, said in his letter that he and Tuncel were supposed to assassinate Dink and three intelligence officials would oversee them while they committed the crime.

“At that time, I was a gendarmerie informant. After the assassination, Tuncel and I would go to Artvin first and from there to Georgia and to Russia with the help of intelligence officials. All the data such as phone signals and crime scene evidence would be destroyed,” the informant allegedly said in the letter. The informant agreed to cooperate in the investigation provided the protection of his family was guaranteed by authorities.

Tuncel denied these claims, saying similar claims had been made before and all of them were revealed to be untrue. “This person is making up [lies]. Police and the prosecutor should have listened to officials who have neglected this issue rather than listening to these people,” said Tuncel.

The informant also claimed that he had information on other crimes such as the murder of Father Andrea Santoro in Trabzon. The informant claimed Tuncel told him that “we have buried Father Santoro,” during one of their conversations. In 2006 Father Andrea Santoro of the Catholic Church of Santa Maria in Trabzon was murdered. One year later, Dink, editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, was murdered in Istanbul on Jan. 19. The informant also said he and Tuncel had been planning to assassinate the priest at Hagia Yorgi located on Büyükada, the biggest island of the Princes’ Islands.

Tuncel, however, denied these claims too, saying “once again, I do not know this person [the informant]. I have no ties with the gendarmerie.”

“There is a structure which goes to the [National Intelligence Organization] MİT, Istanbul Police Department and Trabzon Gendarmerie. There is a chain of negligence, such as evident destroyed… But I was not involved in [such a] structure,” Tuncel said.

“The prosecutor claims that the Ergenekon [coup plot] cell in Trabzon has committed the murder [of Dink] and says evidence of that was removed because the phone records have been deleted. But prosecutors can demand these records from TİB [the Telecommunications Directorate]. I don’t think they are sincere.”

Tuncel cited the negligence of the Trabzon Police Department as avoiding his 17 reports on the issue and not protecting Dink even though he had told them that Dink would be murdered. He said a group, despite being technically pursued by the police, committed the crime.

Tuncel believes that the Trabzon Police Department and Gendarmerie, Istanbul Police Department and intelligence department should be prosecuted if they hide or tamper with evidence. There is no convicted official in this case, he added.

Meanwhile, Dink’s family lawyers have asked the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office to demand information from an investigation in the military’s top-secret archives in Ankara, dubbed the “cosmic room,” about Dink’s murder.

Cem Halavurt, one of the lawyers of the Dink family, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday that after learning from media reports that files examined by the Mobilization Investigation Board, called the “cosmic room,” related to an assassination attempt of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç matched up with the report sent by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to Parliament on the issue.

“In the latest trial, we demanded the court ask the Mobilization Investigation Board to provide documents about the murder of Hrant Dink,” said Halavurt.