BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
While the Hrant Dink murder trial is caught up in the Turkish legal system, another Dink-related trial is making headlines, with Turkey scrambling to defend itself in a case before the European Court of Human Rights that deals with Turkey’s controversial Article 301.
The European Court of Human Rights reportedly ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression of Hrant Dink when it charged him for insulting Turkishness and violated the right to life by failing to protect Dink despite death threats. The court also condemned the inefficiency of the legal proceedings that took place after his death, reported the Turkish daily Vatan on Monday. The Court said it would issue a final decision in September.
The Turkish legal strategy in the case, which drew parallels between Dink’s views and Neo-Nazism was widely criticized by human rights organizations and critics alike, prompting Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu to publicly call the defense wrong.
In an article in the Hurriyet Daily Tuesday, Turkey’s former judge at the European court, Rıza Türmen, suggests that Turkey can either make a unilateral declaration accepting that it violated the court’s convention or settle with the victim’s family. Dink’s family, late last week, rejected any settlement offer as long Article 301 exists.
Meanwhile, in an analysis, published Tuesday in Today’s Zaman, highlights that Turkey’s defense in this case has triggered debate over the mindset of a bureaucracy that always denies any mistake on the part of the Turkish state in the face of citizens’ complaints.
Calling the Turkish defense “shameful,” a group of Turkish academics and intellectuals known as “Friends of Dink” blasted Ankara’s posturing on the defense.
In the petition to the Strasbourg-based court the Turkish government claimed that Dink had insulted Turkishness and used hate speech. “Such articles provoke people and constitute a delictum publicum. … If Dink had been genuinely and imminently threatened, he would have approached local authorities and asked for protection,” the defense argued. Furthermore the Turkish government in its defense drew a parallel between Dink and a neo-Nazi leader.
Davutoglu claimed that he was “disturbed” by the defense argument and added that he learned about the petition only after it was submitted.
After the court announced its intention of finding Turkey guilty of violating Dink’s freedoms, the Turkish foreign ministry was quick to say that the final verdict would be announced in September, in an effort to buy time and possibly devise an 11th-hour strategy to save face.
Despite efforts to convince the world that it is undertaking reforms in line with European and Western standards as it eyes membership in the European Union, Turkey is far from coming close to conforming with and complying to any standards as long as Article 301 is on its books and random arrests and persecution continue to persist in Turkey.
A report several weeks ago in Der Spiegel, hinted at a systematic campaign to rid the southern part of Turkey of its Kurdish population and detailed late-night raids on Kurdish civilians that were followed by torture and murder by government-sanctioned forces. Yet the same government has the audacity to draw comparisons between Dink and Neo-Nazis.
As Turkish government lawyers scramble to find a way out of this particular conundrum, the fact remains that Turkey’s criminal behavior, which stems from a barbaric past, will continue until Turkey faces its own history and rectifies the historic wrongs. Without that, Ankara will have to continue to compound its widespread lies and deception.