Local intel police officer was ‘pressured’ during Dink murder probe

Local intel police officer was ‘pressured’ during Dink murder probe

Ayşegül Usta – ISTANBUL
Local intel police officer was ‘pressured’ during Dink murder probe A former intelligence police officer being tried on charges of negligence in the murder of slain journalist Hrant Dink claimed in his defense on June 21 that he was “pressured” during the 10-year investigation into the assassination, without elaborating on his allegation.

“You said you were pressured during the investigation, how exactly were you pressured? What was demanded in exchange for your release?” Muhittin Zenit, an officer at the provincial bureau of intelligence in the Black Sea province of Trabzon at the time of Dink’s murder, was asked during the sixth hearing of a court trying some 35 suspected state officials. 

Zenit, who has been accused of voluntary manslaughter for withholding intelligence information that could have prevented the assassination, responded by saying the public prosecutor promised to release him if he agreed to tell everything he knew. 

“Nothing was promised. Mr. prosecutor asked me questions from documents while I was writing my testimony,” he said. “I twice received information [from the prosecutor] saying, ‘If he comes and tells me everything I will let him go,’” Zenit told the court, underlining he already told everything he knew. 

“I went to the prison under very negative circumstances. I didn’t have a lawyer. I was on anti-depressants. I was under serious pressure,” the suspect added. 

When asked how he felt upon receiving the news of Dink’s murder, Zenit said he felt the same then as he did today.

“I was sad that day, as I am sad today. A person, lying on the ground, with a hole in the sole of his shoe. A person was killed, no matter what,” Zenit said, referring to a now symbolic photo of Dink from after the murder, lying with his face on the pavement with a hole in the sole of his worn out shoe. 

Zenit also stressed his belief that the trial was the result of a “plot” against him.

“I wasn’t wiretapped for nothing,” he said. “I did not do anything secretive. I prepared reports with my colleagues. There is a perception as though I tried to hide these reports. But they are all in the archives,” Zenit added. 

The court also began hearing the defense of Ercan Demir, the deputy manager of the bureau of intelligence in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, who said it was “out of the question” to remove information from intelligence reports.

“Whoever meets with a deputy intelligence officer writes down the minutes of the meeting that we refer to as F3 and F4 minutes. Later, those minutes are approved by administrative managers. Sometimes, changes are made to better explain the dialogues,” he said. 

“However, it is out of the question to ever remove information from those reports. Information that is put in a report can in no way be taken out,” he added. 

Demir also raised the possibility of a plot and claimed he was illegally wiretapped, saying he was wiretapped by the same people who were the other suspects in the case.

“Do not misunderstand me but, in my perception, this shows that the indictment is baseless,” he added. 

A seventh hearing of the court will commence on June 23 to hear the rest of Demir’s defense. 

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 Jan. 19, 2007.   

Ogün 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 security forces had been aware of a plot to kill Dink but failed to act.