Still Unclear Whether Turkish Officials Under Investigation in Dink Case

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)–Whether or not an “investigation,” by that name or any other, has actually been opened into high-ranking Turkish public officials has become a matter of debate following a hearing Monday on journalist Hrant Dink’s murder.

News outlets initially reported that the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office would take the testimony of 28 public officials in connection with alleged negligence in Dink’s assassination, a development welcomed by his family and supporters.

On Tuesday, however, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay denied any probe had been initiated.

“An investigation was not started. As you know, the European Court of Human Rights made a decision [saying the investigation of the murder had not been broad enough],” Atalay said. “After this, Dink’s lawyers applied to the prosecutor’s office again.”

The lawyer for former Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah, one of the 28 officials named in earlier reports, echoed Atalay’s statement, saying there is no investigation against his client. Lawyers for the Dink family said the prosecutor’s office had approved the investigation, with lawyer Fethiye Çetin evaluating the minister’s statement as “an unfortunate intervention in the judiciary.”

Visiting the investigating prosecutor at the Beşiktaş Courthouse in Istanbul, Dink family lawyer Cem Halavurt said they had submitted an application on January 17 and an investigation was opened on January 25 with the approval of the prosecutor.

“Only complainant names were entered into the National Judiciary Informatics System; the names of the suspects weren’t entered. Normally, all of them should be entered into the record system. However, the prosecutor’s office couldn’t enter all of the names because of confidentiality or other reasons,” Halavurt said, citing the file number for the case.

“However, this is an investigation that started with our request on the names we gave. There is enough suspicion to open an investigation. There is nothing called an examination. This is a preparatory investigation,” he added.

Another lawyer for the Dink family, Arzu Becerik, said Atalay’s statement was not true and that from the perspective of the prosecutor the situation could be perceived as manipulation.

“We await support from the government as this process is part of implementing the European Court of Human Rights decision,” said lawyer Çetin. “It is unfortunate that the government has made such a hasty statement. This is an intervention in the judiciary. A prosecutor with special authority does not need permission in crimes considered within the realm of duties of the prosecutor’s office.”

Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist and editor in chief of multilingual weekly Agos, was shot to death on January 19, 2007, in front of his newspaper’s building in Istanbul’s central Şişli district.

On Monday, during the latest hearing in the murder case, it was reported that the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation into nearly 30 high-ranking public officials, including former Istanbul Gov. Muammer Güler; Ramazan Akyürek, the former top head of police intelligence; 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.

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