Turkey’s honor is at stake with this case

Turkey’s honor is at stake with this case

The prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Court of Appeals has moved to overturn the ruling in the case relating to the assassination of Hrant Dink, the famous Armenian-Turkish journalist who was gunned down in a cowardly attack on Jan. 19, 2007 – another date that has gone down in infamy for Turkey.

Dink was shot dead outside the office of Agos, the bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper in Istanbul, of which he was also the editor-in-chief, by a 17-year-old ultranationalist from Trabzon. Much to the annoyance of ultranationalist agitators – the most prominent of whom are in prison now charged in the Ergenekon or “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) cases - tens of thousands of Dink’s sympathizers took to the street after the murder, chanting “We are all Hrant Dink,” “We are all Armenian.”

With the sixth anniversary of Dink’s murder just a few days ahead, one can expect similar demonstrations in Istanbul and other major cities, calling for the justice that Dink’s family and friends are seeking, and which they have not yet found.

The murderer, Ogün Samast, was convicted in July 2011 by Istanbul’s Juvenile Court for Serious Crimes and sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in jail. Another suspect, Yasin Hayal, got life for ordering the sentence. The court also ruled, to the disbelief and anger of many, that the murder was not the product of a “network,” and could not be considered the result of a grand conspiracy.

The lawyers for the Dink family, however, have claimed all along that the sentences meted out to Samast and Hayal were actually designed to cover up direct involvement or criminal negligence by state officials. They argued that all indications suggest that there was a network involved beyond two not-so-intelligent and easily impressionable youths.

The prosecutor’s office is now arguing that a sufficient investigation was not conducted to determine whether a grand conspiracy was involved, also including criminal negligence by officials, as the authorities had received sufficient tip-offs to indicate that Dink’s life was in danger.

The bottom line in this very involved case is that the prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Court of Appeals believes now that there may be sufficient evidence pointing to a grand conspiracy. It argues that the whole case should be considered as an organized attempt to protect the unity of the state, by means of murdering Dink simply because of his different religion and ethnicity.

Whether the investigation and retrial will be a just and speedy one, or whether it will again drag on for years, remains to be seen, of course. Given past experience, and the reflexive tendency of state officials to try and protect their own in such circumstances, it would be best not to be too optimistic.

However, the point is that try as officialdom has done to have the case closed fast with little fallout affecting the state, the matter has refused to go away. This case at this stage is more than a question of justice for Hrant Dink. It has become a question involving faith in the Turkish justice system and is concerned with Turkey’s honor and good name.

Whatever the knee-jerk reaction of state officials may have been in the past, and no doubt will continue to be today, until the truth about this case emerges there will be few who believe in Turkey or abroad that citizens of Armenian origin, or of any other ethnic origin, can receive justice in this country.

As matters stand, it is hard to argue that the average Turk has much faith in the justice system of the country as it stands today, let alone the question of justice for people of other religions or ethnicities.

An opportunity has arisen to disprove all this and show the world that the Turkish justice system can indeed deliver true justice.