ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)–The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into almost 30 high-ranking public officials in connection with alleged negligence in the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink, a broadening of the case long demanded by his supporters.
News of the investigation, announced during Monday’s hearing, was welcomed by family members and their lawyers, who have criticized the slow progress of the murder trial.
“This is an extremely good, positive development. I hope there will be a result [from] this,” Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin told a crowd of journalists during the court recess. She said they were expecting the investigation as they had applied to the prosecutor’s office on January 17, demanding that rulings made on the case by the European Court of Human Rights be implemented in Turkey.
The Dink family recently made a new plea for state, police and gendarmerie officials not questioned during the initial investigation to be brought into the scope of the case, basing their request on the European court decision finding Turkey guilty of failing to protect Dink and his freedom of speech and of not properly investigating civil servants suspected of being negligent in the murder and its investigation.
Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist and the editor-in-chief of multilingual weekly Agos, was shot to death in front of his newspaper’s building in Istanbul’s central Şişli district on January 19, 2007.
The 28 public officials whose testimonies are expected to be taken by Public Prosecutor with Special Authority Mustafa Çavuşoğlu in the coming days include former Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler; Ramazan Akyürek, the former top head of police intelligence; former Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah; Ahmet İlhan Güler, the former Istanbul head of police intelligence; former Trabzon Police Chief Reşat Altay; Col. Ali Öz, the former Gendarmerie Trabzon regiment commander; and Metin Yıldız, the former Trabzon head of gendarmerie intelligence.
President Abdullah Gül also asked the Presidency’s State Audit Board, or DDK, to look into the matter last week.
The hearing Monday at the Beşiktaş Courthouse in Istanbul was crowded as usual, with those in attendance including foreign observers from the bar associations of Paris and Brussels; members of the “Friends of Hrant Dink” platform; independent Istanbul deputy Ufuk Aras; Freedom and Solidarity, or ÖDP, leader Alper Taş; and columnist Yıldırım Türker.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy leader responsible for human-rights issues, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the case is a “disgrace” in terms of the attitude of the ruling party and the judiciary. “This attitude has further deepened the wound in the public conscience caused by [Dink’s] death,” he said.
The heads of the Diyarbakır and Mersin provincial bar associations joined the team of Dink family lawyers, who started the hearing by giving a long list of demands, mainly concerning witnesses whose testimonies have not been heard and evidence that has not been taken into consideration. Two new books by journalists Nedim Şener and Adem Yavuz Arslan on the Dink assassination were also brought to the court’s attention to be investigated.
Lawyer Fethiye Çetin asked about the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, members who called Dink to a meeting at the Istanbul deputy governor’s office and warned him about an article he had written. Dink mentioned this meeting in columns he wrote shortly before he was killed; the MİT confirmed in a memo sent to the court for the previous hearing that the meeting took place. Çetin demanded the chief of General Staff be asked if it is true that the meeting took place at its request, as claimed in Şener’s book, and if it is true that the General Staff had been keeping illegal intelligence reports on Dink and his newspaper, Agos.
Arzu Becerik, another lawyer for the Dink family, demanded the European court ruling be implemented, unaware that she was about to learn during the recess that the investigation of the 28 public officials had been ordered. The other demands based on the European court decision were compensation for the family and the changing or canceling of the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Law on “insulting Turkishness,” something Dink was found guilty of before his death. Putting the European court rulings into practice “is an important test,” Becerik said, noting that Turkey is the current term president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Col. Öz, one of the new figures being investigated, is already on trial in Trabzon as part of a separate case. Dink’s lawyers have demanded his case be merged with this one, a request the court denied after the recess. The next hearing will be held March 28.
The Dink murder case will be sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for its observations on the case’s merits if the sides do not demand a expansion based on the recent changes to the Turkish Penal Law that limit arrest periods.