While police have stepped up investigations into Gülenist infiltrators and officers linked to the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) since the coup attempt on July 15, one murder case has received renewed attention.
Police detained 20 suspects, including officers, in an investigation into the murder of the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in January 2007. With the latest detentions in Istanbul, the total number of those detained since July 27 in relation to the case has risen to 25. The identities of the new suspects were not revealed, but they are believed to be Gülenist officers who might have played a role in the murder plot.
The Gülenists, who Ankara asserts attempted to topple the government through officers loyal to FETÖ leader Fethullah Gülen, have long been blamed for the killing of Dink in Istanbul by a 17-year-old teenager, Ogun Samast, and the cover-up of their involvement in the aftermath. Gendarmerie officers were long spared from investigation despite calls from activists urging a broader investigation into the murder, claiming gendarmerie intelligence officers were aware of a murder plot. Indeed, several gendarmerie officers were captured on security camera footage both before and after the murder, near the crime scene and near Dink's residence. Dink was shot dead in broad daylight on the sidewalk outside his office at the Agos weekly where he was editor-in-chief.
Allegations of Gülenist links and a cover-up of the case were in the spotlight after coup attempts by Gülenist prosecutors and police in 2013. An Istanbul court reopened the case, and the subsequent legal process saw former police chiefs detained for negligence and cover-up. The next hearing in the trial of the Gülenist police chiefs is scheduled for Aug. 8.
Dink's murder caused public outrage and was initially blamed on ultra-nationalists angry over Dink's comments on Turkish-Armenian relations, a sensitive issue for nationalists. A judicial inquiry into his murder saw Samast and his accomplices jailed, but the allegations of a role played by public officials in the murder has long remained in the shadows. A renewed investigation after two coup attempts by the Gülen Movement in 2013 laid bare links between the murder suspects and police officers with ties to Gülenists. Although Gülenist officers are not accused of directly ordering the hit on Dink, they are accused of negligence in ignoring tips and intelligence reports that indicated threats to Dink's life.
The first investigators in the case were prosecutors Selim Berna Altay and Fikret Seçen. Seçen is now wanted for ties to FETÖ in another case and remains at large. The two prosecutors dismissed an investigation of links by terrorist organizations to Dink's murder. In 2011, Samast was sentenced to 22 years in prison, while the case, now transferred to another court, took a new turn when a new prosecutor blamed the murder on Ergenekon, an alleged gang of generals, journalists, politicians and academics who were imprisoned in another investigation. Ergenekon later turned out to be a plot to imprison critics of Gülen, the accused FETÖ leader, and alleged gang members were subsequently released, while the prosecutors and judges in the Ergenekon case now face charges of membership in FETÖ.
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