Fugitive suspect in Dink murder is innocent, says lawyer

Fugitive suspect in Dink murder is innocent, says lawyer

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Fugitive suspect in Dink murder is innocent, says lawyer

Erhan Tuncel (handcuffed) is being taken to the courthouse in Istanbul in this file photo. Tuncel, a fugitive suspect of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink’s murder case, is preparing his defense in detail, according to his lawyer. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The lawyer of a key suspect in Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrank Dink’s murder has revealed that his missing client, Erhan Tuncel, is in Turkey working on his defense and that it was the latter’s decision whether or not to surrender.

Erdoğan Soruklu, the lawyer of Tuncel, for whom an arrest warrant was issued after he was ordered to stand in a retrial, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 8 that his client was innocent and was working on his defense somewhere in an unknown location in Turkey.

“[Tuncel] is in Turkey working on his defense; he will go more into details in his defense. He calls me [on the phone]; I cannot call him, as I do not know where he is. It is his decision whether or not to surrender,” said Soruklu.

Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, was shot dead in broad daylight in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007. 

Soruklu said they did not expect Tuncel to receive a long-term sentence but if that was the case, they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as his client’s rights that derived from the European Convention of Human Rights were being violated.

“The ECHR is not going to judge Tuncel; it will evaluate whether his rights have been breached. The ECHR had previously punished Turkey for Turkish authorities’ insufficient acts to protect Dink’s right to life. Therefore, this decision also vindicates Tuncel,” said Soruklu.

Tuncel, the suspected instigator of the murder, was an informant in the Black Sea province of Trabzon before the murder of Dink. 

Soruklu also said Tuncel was not a stooge in Dink’s murder. “Erhan is not a person that was used by others. He was a university student in Trabzon, who was delivering intelligence about illegal groups. He was brought to this position in 2004 and was discharged from it one month before the Dink murder but it was not communicated to him. It is still a mystery why he was discharged from this post,” said Soruklu.

Soruklu said he did not believe that Tuncel was the “key person” in the trial and thus his life was not in danger.

“Even though some media outlets and the public opinion are trying to depict Erhan [as the key person], he is not the black box in the case. The public opinion that has been created against Tuncel does not rest on concrete evidence. Punishing Erhan will not make a difference in shedding light on the case. If all the evidence had pointed Tuncel, he would not have been acquitted. Tuncel is being set up as the ‘Big Brother’ but he is the person who reported the murder [to authorities before it took place],” said Soruklu.

Commenting on the accusations of the convicted Yasin Hayal, Soruklu said there was an attempt to cast his client as an instigator. “There is someone who looks like Osman Hayal [the brother of Yasin Hayal] at the crime scene. Yasin Hayal accused Tuncel of being the instigator of the murder just to prevent the truths from coming out,” said Soruklu.

Yasin Hayal was convicted of being the instigator of the assassination and the “leader of a terrorist organization.” Hayal is also among the suspects who are being retried as part of the murder case.

Stating that he was not hopeful about the trial process, Soruklu said that though the court had good intentions, some of the public institutions had not provided the necessary support for the case to proceed. Soruklu said he felt for the Dink family and their loss and that he was not against the Dink family’s struggle but was merely defending his client’s rights.

“My position is not against the Dink family; I share the same intentions as them. I respect their sorrow. I wish with all my heart that the truth will be revealed, but I defend the rights of Erhan Tuncel as a lawyer and believe that he is innocent,” Soruklu said.

Former governor: I wasn't informed

Former Trabzon Governor Hüseyin Yavuzdemir said Hrant Dink would not have been murdered if he had been informed. “If I was informed by the police or gendarmerie, I would warn Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler that a there was a plot against Hrant Dink and this [attacker] person lives in Istanbul; take the necessary measures,” he told local daily Karadeniz.