ISTANBUL (Today’s Zaman)—Engin Dinc, head of the Turkish National Police Department’s Intelligence Unit who led the Trabzon Intelligence Unit at the time of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, said in recent testimony to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office that intelligence on Dink’s murder was passed to the Istanbul Police Department in February 2006.
Today’s Zaman learned that Dinc, who is a key suspect in the murder trial of Dink, gave his testimony before the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office secretly and revealed that they had received information about a probable assassination of Dink in Trabzon, which was sent to Istanbul police in a letter numbered 027248 on February 17, 2006. “I also phoned the chief of the Intelligence Unit of the Istanbul Police Department about the intelligence,” Dinc said in his testimony.
However, former Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah and former Istanbul Police Department Intelligence Unit Chief Ahmet Ilhan Guler stated in their testimonies before the court during the trial in December 2014 that they had not received any intelligence about Dink’s assassination before the murder in 2007.
Three police officers—Ercan Demir, Ozkan Mumcu and Muhittin Zenit—who worked under Dinc in the Intelligence Unit of the Trabzon Police Department, were arrested in January as part of an expanded probe into Dink’s murder. All three police officers had said in their testimonies that Dinc was the highest authority at the Trabzon Police Department’s Intelligence Unit, adding that the intelligence reports about Dink had been prepared by Dinc.
Former Trabzon Police Chief Resat Altay, summoned by Prosecutor Yusuf Hakki Dogan to testify in Dink’s murder trial in December 2014, named Dinc during his testimony. According to media reports, Altay said Dinc had never presented intelligence reports which warned that a possible attack would target Dink, before the reports were sent to the National Police Department. Altay reportedly said, “Apart from the reports, I also do not remember Dinc ever briefing me with any intelligence that Yasin Hayal was preparing to attack Dink.”
Despite a collection of testimonies pointing to Dinc and requests from the lawyers of the Dink family, the prosecutor conducting the ongoing murder probe decided not to summon Dinc to testify. Instead he was promoted and has been the chief of the National Police Department’s Intelligence Unit since April 2013.
Dink was shot and killed by an ultranationalist teenager in 2007. The assassin, Ogun Samast, and 18 others were brought to trial. Since then, the lawyers for the Dink family and the co-plaintiffs in the case have presented evidence indicating that Samast did not act alone. Another suspect, Yasin Hayal, was given life in prison for inciting Samast to commit murder.
The retrial started in September 2014, when the Istanbul 5th High Criminal Court complied with a ruling from the Supreme Court of Appeals in May 2013 overturning a lower court’s ruling that acquitted the suspects in the Dink murder case of charges of forming a terrorist organization. This decision paved the way for the trial of public officials on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Referring to Erhan Tuncel, an informant and a key suspect who is accused of initiating efforts to have Dink murdered, Dinc said he met Tuncel in his office in Trabzon and asked him to convince Hayal to give up the idea of the assassination.
Separate investigations related to Dink’s murder, including investigations in Istanbul and Trabzon, had previously not been merged in spite of the demands of the Dink family’s lawyers. The investigations were finally combined toward the end of last year.
As part of the same investigation, two former heads of the National Police Department’s Intelligence Unit—Sabri Uzun and Ramazan Akyurek—and a former police chief, Ali Fuat Yilmazer, have testified as suspects.