A court in Istanbul ordered the release of five suspects in a trial related to the 2007 murder of renowned Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
The suspects were the staff of Istanbul's gendarmerie command when Dink was gunned down by a teenager in front of the Agos weekly newspaper, where Dink was editor-in-chief.
The defendants were among the 85 people tried for negligence and deliberate negligence that amounts to a cover-up regarding the intelligence reports about the murder plot.
Dink's murder was initially attributed to nationalists disturbed by his outspokenness regarding the Armenian "genocide," a thorny issue for Turkey, especially for nationalists.
Ogün Samast, a teenager, was captured and sentenced to 23 years in prison for the daytime murder, but further inquiry found several public and police officials linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) had tried to cover-up the case.
FETÖ is implicated in several cases, ranging from last year's coup bid, blamed on its infiltrators in the military, to illegal wiretapping and sham trials.
The terrorist group used the murder to "incite chaos" in Turkey, according to prosecutors.
FETÖ supporters had blamed several prominent figures, from military officers to academics, of having a role in the murder and tried to tie it to Ergenekon, a gang concocted by FETÖ-linked prosecutors to imprison its critics.
The first trial for the murder ended in 2012, with only 19 defendants. At the time, an Istanbul court ruled in favor of the prison sentences for Samast and his friends, including a police informant.
A higher court threw out terrorism charges for the suspects, saying Samast and the others were merely members of a criminal gang.
A new investigation years later turned the spotlight on the role of the police chiefs and intelligence officials accused of covering up intelligence reports on the murder plot and evidence of possible negligence by the prosecutors and judges handling the murder case as it was determined that they were linked to FETÖ.
Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who were senior police intelligence officials at the time of Dink's murder, face life imprisonment on charges of homicide and terrorism, as well as forgery and destroying official documents, while other public officials face shorter prison terms for negligence and abuse of duty for their role in the cover-up.
In the 15th hearing of the case at Istanbul's 14th High Criminal Court, judges ordered the release of gendarmerie officers Bekir Yokuş, Ecevit Emir, Emre Cingöz, Hacı Şerif Şimşek and Şeref Ateş due to a lack of evidence.
The court said GPS records showing the location of the suspects did not corroborate the claims that they were at the crime scene before and while Samast fired the fatal shots at Dink.
The court ordered a travel abroad ban and judiciary control for the defendants and adjourned the hearing to Jan. 29.
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