Newly surfaced video footage shows officers linked with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) giving "hero treatment" to Ogün Samast, the culprit who shot Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. The footage drew attention to a chain of murders targeting minorities prior to the Ergenekon case, the first of Gülenist operations to infiltrate the state.
Speaking to 24TV about the issue, Nedim Şener, a columnist at the Turkish daily Posta, who is known for reporting on the Dink murder, said that the assassination and veneration of Samast were planned moves by FETÖ in order to bring Turkey's nationalist faction under suspicion, as well as pave the way for the Ergenekon case, where hundreds of officers labelled "ultra-nationalist" were tried and jailed on allegations of scheming to plot to overthrow the government. "I paid the price for investigating the Dink murder. I hope that all the camera footage and other details that have been 'destroyed' by Gülenist officers become revealed and hence shed further light on the murder process," he said.
Shot 36 hours after Samast murdered the journalist, the video shows police officers treating Samast like a hero. They give Samast a Turkish flag asking him to pose for the camera smiling. While one of the officers questions Samast about his actions on the day of the murder, one of the officers congratulates Samast saying, "Good job, my boy."
Upon being asked about the murder, Samast says "I watched him for two or three days. I pull out my gun and shot him. I was waiting in front of his door. I came, I shot." Towards the end of the footage, one of the police officers talks to a man named Ramazan. Although it is not clear, the name of the caller is similar to Ramazan Akyürek, the police commissioner of the police department in Trabzon at the time, who is currently in prison due to his connections with FETÖ.
Dink was gunned down in 2007 by a 17-year-old teenager in Istanbul outside the office of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian weekly where he was editor-in-chief. He was the founder of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, and considered one of the most prominent Armenian voices in Turkey.
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 FETÖ 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.
"Unfortunately, the footage is not shocking for us," Yetvart Danzikyan, the editor-in-chief of Agos newspaper told Daily Sabah. "What is worrying is, the footage was revealed almost nine years after it was recorded. The police officers may be affiliated with FETÖ, however, the state's effort to shed light on the case has not been satisfying and makes it [state] also responsible for delaying the trial process," he added.
Gökalp Kökçü, one of the prosecutors handling the case, told the court that the role of gendarmerie officers in the case has long remained in the dark, as previous investigations failed to find any evidence implicating the gendarmerie. "The Hrant Dink murder was the first killing in a process leading to the coup attempt of July 15," Kökçü said, according to the Anadolu Agency. Kökçü pointed out that gendarmerie officers suspected of involvement in the murder plot were captured while participating in the coup attempt.
"As new details are uncovered about the Dink murder, the picture has become clearer," Armenian-Turkish Deputy Markar Esayan told Daily Sabah. He underscored the timeline of unresolved murders between 2006-2007 that targeted minorities, the murder of three Christian staff at Zirve, a Bible publishing house in Turkey, the assassination of Hrant Dink, and the killing of Father Andrea Santoro, just before the beginning of the Ergenekon trial, which was marked as eliminating the "secret state." "Now, we understand that the setting was prepared to orientate internal and external public opinion. The terror group [FETÖ] orchestrated these murders and subtly managed the subsequent process in order to create the impression of, say, 'The Christians are being murdered in Turkey,' which helped to avoid a possible reaction from external factors, such as the EU and U.S., during the trial of the Ergenekon case, the figures labelled as responsible of these murders" Esayan said.
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