ISTANBUL (Today’s Zaman)—Fethiye Çetin, an attorney representing the family of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, slammed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday for his recent remarks about the Dink murder case and claimed that the government is trying to protect those who were involved in the assassination.
According to news portal T24, Çetin criticized Erdoğan for saying that the Hrant Dink case was merely personal and not a complex plan, saying: “The prime minister is protecting his staff [government officials] with those words. For example, [former Interior Minister] Muammer Güler is still a deputy of the Justice and Development Party [AK Party]. Furthermore, Engin Dinç is chief of intelligence. We also have Celalettin Cerrah, Reşat Altay… The list can go on. Erdoğan said those words in order to protect those people and many more.”
Former Trabzon intelligence chief Engin Dinç, who has been accused of obstructing justice in the Hrant Dink case, was assigned to be the intelligence chief of the National Police Department. Cerrah is a former Istanbul police chief and Altay was the chief of police in Trabzon at the time of the murder.
Presidential candidate and Prime Minister Erdoğan made a statement to the Vatan daily last week while on his way back from an election rally in Diyarbakır. “The Hrant Dink case was personal. It is not possible to compare that with the parallel state [referring to the Hizmet movement–a civil society organization that Erdoğan has claimed seeks to overthrow his government]. This parallel state is a security issue. They [Hizmet movement] intend to take control of government institutions. It would be a mistake to compare the Dink matter with the parallel state,” Erdoğan said.
Çetin has claimed that Erdoğan called Hrant Dink’s family after the assassination in 2007 and told them that he was being targeted, too. “In a phone call to Hrant Dink’s family, Erdoğan said that those who murdered Hrant Dink were after him, too. Now I want to ask Erdoğan a question. Are those who want to kill him just three youngsters? Is it that simple? Furthermore, how can a person who is running for president comment so easily on an ongoing investigation?” Çetin asked.
Claiming that the prime minister used the Dink case as political material in order to weaken his enemies, Çetin said that Erdoğan has decided not to manipulate the case further for now. “Erdoğan brought the opposition to its knees. He either put them in prison or he has them under great pressure. That is why he is no longer using the Dink case as political material. He used Dink in order to start the Ergenekon investigation [an investigation of a criminal network that started five years ago]. But obviously, he does not need it anymore. If he needs it in the future; however, I believe he could use it again.” Çetin added.
Dink was shot and killed by an ultra-nationalist teenager in broad daylight seven years ago. The hitman, Ogün Samast, and 18 others were brought to trial. During the process, the lawyers for the Dink family and the co-plaintiffs in the case presented evidence indicating that Samast did not act alone. Another suspect, Yasin Hayal, was given life in prison for inciting Samast to murder. However, Erhan Tuncel, who worked as an informant for the Trabzon Police Department, was found not guilty of the murder.
Rober Koptaş, editor-in-chief of the bilingual Armenian weekly Agos, where Hrant Dink was editor-in-chief before his murder, also made a statement to the T24 news portal on Thursday, saying: “It seems like the prime minister is not afraid of anything or anyone on his way to Çankaya [presidential palace] from Kasımpaşa [the İstanbul district where Erdoğan grew up], but look how he has ended up. The Hrant Dink assassination is an obvious source of fear for him. In order to cover up the case, Erdoğan is trying to leave the Hizmet movement holding the bag. This is a perfect example of Erdogan’s U-turn,” Koptaş said in his statement.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu also criticized Erdoğan on Wednesday for his recent remarks on the Dink case, claiming that the government is trying to bury the case.
In a written statement released on Wednesday, Tanrıkulu accused Erdoğan of not taking any concrete steps in order to capture the players behind the scenes in the Dink murder. “Dink’s assassination was not a result of personal enmity. It was nothing but an organized crime. Although Prime Minister Erdoğan knows about every single person involved in this murder, the real players still got away with what they did. Only the gunman was sentenced to a prison term,” Tanrıkulu said in his written statement