Turkish-Armenian journo's murder trial lingers 12 years later

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 19.01.2019 00:00
Updated 19.01.2019 18:14

Hrant Dink, an outspoken Turkish-Armenian journalist who long questioned hostilities between Turks and Armenians, was remembered on Saturday outside Agos, the newspaper where he served as editor-in-chief before his murder in 2007. Yet, 12 years after this shocking assassination, justice remains elusive due to complicated links to a shady group.

Dink's murder at the hands of a teenager allegedly guided by a far-rightist, took a new turn after a coup attempt in 2013. A new investigation discovered that the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which was accused of running "a parallel state" with its infiltrators in law enforcement, the judiciary, bureaucracy, military etc., might be behind the assassination.

Prosecutors believe that the murder was the "first act of violence" by FETÖ, and a new trial with 85 defendants started in 2017. Since then, judges and prosecutors were changed, new defendants were added and as of now, only four defendants remain imprisoned. Fourteen defendants remain at large, while the rest were released pending trial in earlier hearings. The next hearing is scheduled to be held in March.

The 53-year-old journalist was walking to the offices of his Turkish & Armenian bilingual daily, Agos, when a young man, later identified as Ogün Samast, approached him and shot Dink three times. His murder sparked public outrage in Turkey, as he was thought to have been murdered because of his ethnic identity and outspoken editorials. Samast and his accomplices were later captured and sentenced over the murder.

Dink was at the forefront of reconciliation efforts between Turks and Armenians, who have been at odds over the alleged genocide of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I by Ottoman forces.

He was known for his criticism of both sides but ultimately drew the ire of ultranationalists. Though he complained of death threats before his murder, it was later claimed that Samast was "brainwashed" by a police informant to commit the murder.

It was a closed case if not for some new revelations and the insistence of Dink's family that a larger network was involved in the murder. Ultimately, former police chiefs linked to FETÖ were detained for covering up information on the murder.

FETÖ, which is also blamed for the failed military coup attempt in 2016, has also been linked to efforts to thwart a thorough investigation of the murder. Some prosecutors and judges handling the case were later removed from their posts and detained for their links to the terrorist group.

Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group, is among the defendants, along with former police intelligence chiefs Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer.

The defendants have blamed each other for negligence in the investigation and dismissal of tip-offs.

Prosecutors said the terrorist group, through its infiltrators in the judiciary and law enforcement, looked to put the blame on Ergenekon and imprison critics of the group by linking them to it. Ergenekon was the alleged name of a "deep state" gang of military officers, journalists, academics and other prominent figures in a string of trials later uncovered to be concocted by FETÖ-linked judges, prosecutors and police chiefs.

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