Three Years After Dink Murder, Case Remains Unsolved

ISTANBUL (Today’s Zaman)–Three years after Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was fatally shot outside his office by an ultranationalist teenager, the investigation into his murder has stalled as the suspected perpetrator and his immediate accomplices have been put on trial, but those who masterminded the plot to kill him still wait to be revealed.

While the anniversary of Dink’s murder is being commemorated today with a series of ceremonies in Turkey and abroad, Dink’s lawyers, domestic and international rights organizations and activists express their frustration that the murder investigation has not been progressing. There is a lengthy list of suspicious irregularities in the investigation, including deleted records and hidden files suggestive of an attempted police cover-up.

“Much of the evidence indicates that the murder could have been prevented,” said Deniz Tuna, one of the family lawyers. “We filed lawsuits indicating that security forces should have been tried for manslaughter because they caused Dink’s death from negligence, but they are continuing to be tried only for negligence,” she told Today’s Zaman.

Dink was editor-in-chief of the bilingual Agos daily until he was killed on Jan. 19, 2007. Lawyers representing the co-plaintiffs in the Dink trial have long alleged that the murder was the doing of Ergenekon, a clandestine group charged with plotting to overthrow the government. In the latest hearing they also petitioned the 14th High Criminal Court to contact the prosecutors investigating Ergenekon to request a copy of the documents that describe the organization’s schemes against religious minorities in Turkey.

At the last hearing of the Dink trial in October of last year co-plaintiff lawyer Fethiye Cetin stated that Dink’s murder, along with that of an Italian priest in 2006 and the 2007 slaying of three Christians in Malatya, was part of an operation carried out by Ergenekon.

On Saturday, a group known as “The Friends of Hrant” called on people to participate in a demonstration to be held in front of the Agos daily headquarters today, the third anniversary of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s death.

Cetin also said that the acts of some Ergenekon suspects in turning Dink into a target for ultranationalists were very “open.” She recalled that when Dink was facing charges under Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 301, which then criminalized “insulting Turkishness,” some of the people who are in jail now as alleged Ergenekon members brought crowds of protestors and even attacked Dink and his supporters as they entered and left the courtroom.

Indeed, this is what co-plaintiff lawyers Cetin and Tuna point out in their “Third Year Report on Hrant Dink’s Murder,” referring to a devious plan called the Cage Operation Action Plan, which aimed to intimidate Turkey’s non-Muslims and assassinate prominent figures. The plan, revealed during the Ergenekon investigation, was allegedly designed by a group of members of the Naval Forces Command.

Lawyer Tuna said that all the indications point to Dink’s murder being part of a plan. “There is a willpower and a determination [outside of] the court, and this is what needs to be exposed,” she said.

Asked by Today’s Zaman who could expose it, she said, “the government.”

“The security personnel were informed beforehand about the assassination plot and did not take steps to stop it. They are being protected by certain authorities in an attempted cover-up. We are talking about the state’s security forces: the gendarmerie, police and intelligence agencies. Therefore, it is the government which is supposed to demonstrate the political will to make progress in Dink’s murder.”

She also explained that an inspection board under the Prime Ministry had started an investigation in response to a petition by Dink’s wife in April 2007. The investigation requested that some intelligence and security forces personnel in Trabzon be investigated, and the board approved this report at the end of 2008.

“We don’t know the result of the investigation in Trabzon. We requested to be joint attorneys in those cases but were not allowed,” Tuna said, adding that they were prevented from doing this under Law 4483, which relates to the judicial process for trying public officials.

“What we need is a government initiative to show the necessary will in order to solve the problems in Dink’s murder which relate to the bigger picture,” she said.

The report prepared by Tuna and Cetin concluded that it is impossible to shed light on Dink’s murder using the methods employed thus far.

“As it is impossible to believe that the murder is the work of three to five youths who have nationalistic feelings, it is also impossible to believe that an organized structure which has illegal powers of authority and influence within the intelligence units and the gendarmerie could have committed the murder by using those youths. From the General Staff to the judiciary, from government spokespeople to the security units, from the media to paramilitary forces, all legal and political actors have responsibility in Hrant Dink’s murder, by not preventing the murder and not exposing the real perpetrators.”

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