ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)—Six of eight suspects being tried on charges of negligence in not preventing the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink have been sentenced to prison by a court in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
A lawyer for the Dink family said, however, that the judiciary was dragging its feet to prevent the case from reaching a conclusion.
The 2nd Trabzon Criminal Court of Peace handed down six-month prison sentences to Col. Ali Öz, the Trabzon gendarmerie commander at the time of the murder, and then-Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit Director Cpt. Metin Yıldız.
Noncommissioned officers Veysel Şahin, Okan Şimşek, Hacı Ömer Ünalır and Hüseyin Yılmaz were each sentenced to four months in jail on the same charges. Two other military personnel were acquitted by the court due to a lack of evidence.
Dink family lawyer Engin Cinmen said all the trials pertaining to the case must be merged and brought before a court for serious crimes, rather than being heard in criminal courts. He also called for all the suspects to be charged with being members of a crime gang.
“A considerable portion of both administrative and judiciary authorities, as well as administrative courts, would like to see the Hrant Dink case remain inconclusive for an indefinite period of time,” Cinmen told the Anatolia news agency.
“If such gross neglect by public officials is being tried in criminal courts, and if our requests for merging the trials are accepted by the criminal court but turned down by those who should have accepted it, this means [they do not want to conclude the case],” he added. “[Our] legal battle will continue.”
Dink was shot in the back outside his Istanbul office by confessed triggerman Ogün Samast on Jan. 19, 2007.
Dink family lawyers have claimed the Trabzon suspects had prior knowledge about a plot to kill the journalist since July 2006 but failed to take the necessary measures to protect him, suggesting they had personal relations with the suspects in Dink’s murder. The main murder trial is continuing at Istanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court.
“No decision was made to adjourn the case due to the manner in which the crime was committed and the public indignation that it caused. The court could not have acted in any other way,” Cinmen said.
Retired Lt. Col. Ali Oğuz Çağlar, a former Trabzon gendarmerie public security branch director, confirmed the testimonies of two gendarmerie officers about Öz.
“Two of our intelligence officers worked hard to obtain for me highly credible information that the murder was likely to happen, and they passed the information to the troop commander, Col. Ali Öz, but the commander, either knowingly or unknowingly, did not proceed with the procedures he had to go through after obtaining such information,” he earlier told the court.
Çağlar said that upon receiving the intelligence, Öz had said, “Let’s talk about this later,” and the matter was not discussed again. People who attended the briefing where the intelligence was discussed later debated “how such information [could] be disregarded.”
According to Çağlar, as the news of Dink’s murder was revealed on television Jan. 19, 2007, Öz also told them in the next briefing that informant Coşkun İğci should be contacted and silenced.
İğci, who testified for the first time July 7, 2008, is the uncle of Dink murder suspect Yasin Hayal. İğci said he tried to prevent Hayal from murdering Dink but could not, so he informed officials and gendarmerie officials, who told him they had already been monitoring Hayal.
“This resistance [of the courts in the Dink case] must be broken for the benefit of the law. Otherwise, Turkey would not be able to go on with this disgrace. This trial is being closely followed not just in Turkey but in the entire world,” lawyer Cinmen said.
“The Hrant Dink case must be brought to a conclusion in a manner that will satisfy the public’s conscience. The judiciary is not excluded from this framework. I believe the 2nd Trabzon Criminal Court of Peace has given the necessary verdict,” he added.
Samast has confessed to gunning down Dink outside his newspaper’s Istanbul office in January 2007, but the ensuing investigation has been highly controversial. The investigation made it obvious that the young man had not acted alone but was in fact driven by a group of people whom he called “older brothers” and who had plotted to commit the act for more than a year.
In addition to suspicious links between the suspects and security institutions, lawyers representing the Dink family at various times have accused the police of destroying vital evidence and concealing crucial information from the court and the prosecution.