Opening of the trial against the alleged murderers of Hrant Dink - an occasion to pinpoint responsibility and prevent future racist crimes -

Press release
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On July 2, 2007, the criminal proceedings against the alleged murderers of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, will begin in Istanbul. Hrant Dink was assassinated on a public street in front of his office in Istanbul on January 19, 2007. He was a leader of the movement for democratic reforms in Turkey and an enthusiastic defender of the entry of Turkey into the European Union. Dink also personified dialogue between Turks and Armenians. FIDH has strongly urged the Turkish authorities to actively seek the assassins and masterminds of this crime and, at the 36th FIDH Congress, called upon the Turkish judicial authorities to carry out a transparent and thorough survey in order to identify all parties responsible for the assassination of Hrant Dink.

Due to the age of the alleged murderer, Ogün Samast, 17, the proceedings will be held in camera. According to the bill of indictment, he will have to respond to numerous charges, including "premeditated homicide" and "membership in a terrorist organisation". The prosecutors seek a sentence of 18 to 24 years in prison. He faces an additional prison sentence of 8.5 to 18 years for membership in a terrorist organisation and illegal possession of a weapon. The two alleged instigators of the assassination, Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, may be sentenced to life in prison. Moreover, Tuncel may be sentenced to between 22.5 and 48 years of prison for having led a terrorist organisation and Hayal, 26 years old, is likely to receive an additional sentence of 18 to 30 years of prison for the same crimes, in addition to having furnished the money and the weapon for the crime. Penalties ranging from 7.5 to 35 years of prison have been requested against the other 15 accused, all from Trabzon district, for complicity in murder and membership in a terrorist organisation.

The criminal investigation carried out by two prosecutors and police officers of the anti-terrorist division of Istanbul revealed complicity and negligence within the State apparatus, in particular in the police and gendarmerie. The police force of Trabzon apparently had informed Ankara and Istanbul, as early as February 2006, of the plans of the terrorist organisation to kill Hrant Dink. These warnings were not taken seriously. The governor and the chief of the police force of Trabzon were transferred, and the intelligence officer at the Istanbul police force, Ahmet Ilhan Güler was suspended and is now under investigation. A preliminary investigation was carried out on the Istanbul police chief, Celalettin Cerrah, who had denied that there was any "political dimension or organisation behind this crime", but the Governor of Istanbul saw no justification for this investigation and had it stopped. The lawyers of Hrant Dink appealed this decision. The proceedings are still underway.

Further, the investigation established links between the terrorist group and an ultra-nationalist political organisation, the Great Union Party, (BBP) and its youth movement, ’Foyers Alperen’. The lawyers called for a detailed examination of these relations during the proceedings.

The Turkish media, moreover, indicated that several people have been excluded from the investigations. The media reported that two people, one linked to the secret service of the gendarmerie and the other to the Trabzon police force, had numerous contacts with the suspects. Tens of telephone calls with Ogün Samast, the principal defendant, were recorded during the period preceding the murder. However, only a part of these conversations apparently were transmitted to the prosecutors in charge of the investigation.

FIDH once again wishes to state that it is essential for the case to proceed under conditions of total safety and transparency so that the legal authorities can work impartially. FIDH wants full identification or all parties with direct or indirect responsibility in this assassination, and wants the true masterminds to be identified, whoever they are.

FIDH reiterates its total support for lawyers of the Dink family and will follow the case with great attention. FIDH has faith in the ability of the Turkish judiciary to bring out the answers to all of the questions related this crime, in particular the possible implication of the police and gendarmerie, but also the failure of the government and the public authorities to protect a citizen who lived under a threat that was common knowledge to all.

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