The ‘Friends of Hrant’ and the ‘Friends of his murderer’

The ‘Friends of Hrant’ and the ‘Friends of his murderer’

My friend Hrant was killed six years ago, in front of his office, a few minutes’ walk from my home. I was unfortunate enough to see his body lying on the pavement. I ran to his office to get more information right after I learned that he was attacked; at the time, I didn’t know that he was killed there, less than half an hour beforehand. Needless to say, it was a devastating moment, and since then, I have refrained from talking and writing about the emotional part of this tragic event. Besides, there were so many personal accounts about “being one of Hrant’s friends.”

At first, I thought that the murderer could be a nationalist thug who had acted individually in a politically suitable environment; even if it had been so, it would have been horrible enough. After that, however, we started to learn the details of the case and that it was an orchestrated murder. The public outrage against Dink’s assassination was the only consolation, as thousands marched at his funeral, shouting, “We are all Armenians!” It seemed that the era was over for those who thought that killing an Armenian could go unpunished. 

Alas, seven years on, Dink’s outspoken lawyer, Fethiye Çetin, has stated “we are behind the point that we were at before,” after a long process of trials and verdicts. Tomorrow, another Dink trial will begin after the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that it was not an individually motivated but organized crime. 

Çetin, however, has stated that it is not an improvement but the opposite, as the Supreme Court decided that the “organization behind the crime” was limited to those who were already sentenced to prison. It means that the court refuses to acknowledge or even question the links between the murderers and the security services (and civil bureaucracy) despite so much evidence provided by Dink’s lawyers.

The lawyers and the followers of the Dink case who call themselves “Friends of Hrant” have made a public statement and called for “a trial of those who are really responsible for the murder, not a show trial.” In fact, it is not a call for justice just for Hrant, but it has ultimate political significance. There is a lot of evidence that hints that Hrant was murdered by a youth gang that had links to the security services. Moreover, it was an initial court case against Hrant and the public humiliation after the court’s verdict that paved the way for his ultimate murder. 

At the time (2006) the case against Dink was opened with reference to one of his newspaper articles that he was accused of “publicly insulting the Turkish nation” under controversial Article 301. The Supreme Court of Appeals then approved the sentence (July 2006).

I am sure most of you know the whole story; I just want to note that after all, one of the judges who approved the sentence when he was a member of the Supreme Court, Mehmet Ömeroğlu, was elected as ombudsman of Turkey on Nov. 27, 2012. In fact, there is no need for further comment. So far, I have often refrained from writing my doubts about the hopes of a fair trial in the Dink murder, since, from the beginning, I was very skeptical about the supposed elimination of the deep state in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. The Dink trial is very important for observing what happened to the so-called “deep state” after the AKP altered the status quo ante. So far, it seems that it is only the patrons of the state that have changed and that there is still a very long way to go.

I never thought that skepticism should stop us from fighting for more democracy and the rule of law; I always thought that skepticism was an essential part of political criticism that works as a tool to put more pressure on politicians. 

Unfortunately, this is a country where “skepticism is confused with cynicism” by democrats themselves. It was a fatal mistake, and now we are paying the price. Still, we should keep going and asking for justice to be done. 

The Friends of Hrant should never give up until the judges feel truly obliged to inquire who the “friends of Hrant’s murderer” were.