Tens of thousands march in protest of Hrant Dink verdict

by editor | 20th January 2012 9:29 am

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  Tens of thousands of demonstrators march from ?stanbul's Taksim Square to the site of Hrant Dink murder five years ago, the Agos newspaper headquarters in ?i?li. (Photo: AA)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators march from ?stanbul’s Taksim Square to the site of Hrant Dink murder five years ago, the Agos newspaper headquarters in ?i?li. (Photo: AA)
Some 40,000 people were out on the streets on Thursday in various provinces across Turkey to commemorate Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot dead outside his newspaper’s office in ?i?li on Jan. 19, 2007, two days after a court verdict that established that there was no “criminal organization” link in the assassination, although plenty of evidence suggests otherwise.
A large crowd gathered in Taksim at 1 p.m., but there were other events in the same area in the evening as well. Other cities that saw large crowds gathering both to commemorate Dink and to protest the court verdict, which they say didn’t find or punish the real perpetrators who organized the murder, included Ankara, ?zmir and Adana.
Dink’s family and friends and human rights organizations placed red carnations on the spot where Dink was shot dead in ?stanbul outside the office of Agos, the Armenian newspaper where he was editor-in-chief.
Some 10,000 people began marching towards Agos’ office in Halaskargazi Street “for justice,” a call shared by Turkish leaders and leading businessmen who expressed unease with this week’s sentencing of one man to life in prison for masterminding the killing, while another 18 were acquitted of charges of acting on a terrorist organization’s orders. The group is set to make a statement to the press in front of Agos.

Journalist and writer Karin Karaka?l?, who is from Turkey’s Armenian community, read a press statement — on behalf of the group from the window of Agos — that slammed Tuesday’s ruling. “We want an end to this shame,” she said, referring to the five-year-long trial that has failed to shed light on the masterminds behind the murder. “They are telling us that the [case] file has been closed. The Dink case is not a file that can be closed. The Dink case is a wound,” she continued.

The hashtag #kardesimhrant (mybrother Hrant) was the top trending topic for Turkey on Twitter, while the words Taksim — where the protesters met in ?stanbul — and Agos remained in the top 10 throughout much of the day. Thousands of micro bloggers reported every second of the event in a fast-moving stream of tweets.

At the night club Ghetto, a commemoration concert for Dink was held. The bands and artists who performed were Aylin Asl?m, Cafe Aman ?stanbul, Gripin, Jehan Barbur, Karde? Türküler, Mo?ollar, Mor ve Ötesi, Redd, Rojin and ?evval Sam.

What really happened?

Dink was shot dead by an ultra-nationalist teenager in broad daylight five years ago. The hit-man, Ogün Samast, and eighteen others were brought to trial. During the process, the lawyers for the Dink family and the co-plaintiffs in the case presented evidence indicating that Samast was not acting alone. Another suspect, Yasin Hayal, was given life in prison for inciting Samast to murder. However, Erhan Tuncel, who worked as an informant for the Trabzon Police Department, was not found guilty of the murder. The prosecution believes the killers are affiliated with the Ergenekon network, whose suspected members currently stand trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. The lawyers have documented that the police force in Trabzon, where most of the suspects are from and where the assassination plot was hatched, and the ?stanbul Police Department knew about the murder. In a separate trial, two gendarmerie officers were convicted on charges of “dereliction of duty” in the run-up to the Dink murder. There have also been other instances hinting at a cover-up and even protection of the suspects, but the court decided that a group of teenagers plotted to kill the journalist because he was an Armenian. The verdict was met with outrage by civil society gruops, politicians and others.

One photograph, released to the media shortly after the murder for example, showed Samast — the shooter — standing next to two proud-looking police officers with a Turkish flag in the background, allegedly taken at the Samsun Police Department where he was captured before he was brought to ?stanbul.

The court’s verdict, which found that the teenagers acted on their own, came on Tuesday, two days before the fifth anniversary of the Dink murder. The protests reflected a combined sense of mourning, grief and anger.

The possible Ergenekon connection

On Friday, Erdal Do?an, a former lawyer for Hrant Dink, said there were many links that were covered up during the investigation. He said that Zekeriya Öz, the former prosecutor conducting the investigation into Ergenekon — the clandestine network of coup plotters — was removed from office last year just when he was about to investigate further into the heart of the group that was really behind the murder. “When you look at the big picture, you see the structure [behind the murder], the organization. We see the traces of this in the Sledgehammer coup plot of 2003,” he said, referring to a subplot allegedly devised by a coup-planning group inside the military that had non-Muslims at its target. “Even the names of the people who would kill Dink were written out at the time.”

Do?an was quoted by the Dink agency as saying that he had been following the main Dink murder trial — and the related trials — since 2005. He said he gave up his role as a plaintiff lawyer shortly after it occurred to him that nothing would come out of the court process. He told the Cihan news agency: “The prosecutor did not conduct a thorough investigation. I had earlier said that nothing would come out of that trial. There were criminal complaints filed against people — some of whom are now jailed in the Ergenekon trial — who attacked the lawyers and the Dink family during the trial,” referring to Kemal Kerinçsiz, an ultra-nationalist lawyer, who, along with like-minded individuals, went to the first few hearings in the Dink trial and verbally harassed and physically assaulted Dink’s friends.

Do?an also said the “structure” that killed Dink still has the power to commit many other atrocities. He noted that the Cage action plan — another coup document that is currently under investigation — includes a proposal to assassinate important public figures from non-Muslim communities and that the planned murders were referred to as “operations.” Do?an said it was also out in the open that a group of officers in the Trabzon police collaborated with those carrying out the Cage plan. “There are serious incidents of negligence. If those could have been prevented, Dink would still be alive.”

President Abdullah Gül on Thursday in his second statement on the verdict said concluding the trial fairly and transparently is a major test for Turkey.

“The Hrant Dink trial is an important trial. It has special sensitivity since it concerns one of our non-Muslim citizens. It is a major test for us to conclude the trial process so far and from now on in a fair and transparent way,” he said on Thursday as he responded to questions from reporters in Aksaray.

Gül recalled that the lawyers and the prosecutors involved in the case have appealed the decision and that the final verdict would be given by the Supreme Court of Appeals. “I hope the final verdict comes soon,” he added.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu also made a statement, leveling criticism at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the controversial verdict.

K?l?çdaro?lu said in his Twitter feed on Wednesday that there are those who define students demanding free education as members of a criminal organization, but don’t consider Dink’s murder the work of an organized criminal effort. “This is the AK Party’s justice,” K?l?çdaro?lu added in a veiled statement meant to suggest the government played a role in the court’s decision.

Other reactions

Metin Özyurt, head of the Law Center, a civil society group promoting legal democratic rights, offered a related view, saying, “It is a major contradiction that the same people who are conducting campaigns for the release of Ergenekon suspects are questioning organizational links in the Dink murder.” Özyurt said Dink was killed to serve the ends of the Cage Plan plotters. He criticized the critics of the Ergenekon trial, who claim that the trial has become an instrument for the government to crack down on its opponents. Özyurt said the assassination of Dink, the 2006 killing of an Italian priest in Trabzon and the brutal murders of three Christians in Malatya in 2007 were connected and were part of the Cage plan.

The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜS?AD) issued its first formal statement on the verdict on Thursday. At the 42th General Assembly meeting of her organization, TÜS?AD President Ümit Boyner said the verdict in the murder trial of Dink, “a patriot who loved this land and its people,” hurt the public conscience. She said the verdict had shocked the public, but she also criticized the arrest of journalist Nedim ?ener as part of the Ergenekon investigation. “In the run-up to this verdict, a journalist who exposed the role of illegal structures [inside the state] and the role of some state officials in the murder, or the failure to prevent it, was arrested on charges of being a part of the illegal organization that he thought he had exposed.”

She said the verdict greatly shattered public confidence in the judiciary and judicial mechanisms.

Parliamentary Constitutional Commission head Burhan Kuzu also made a statement on the verdict, saying: “We will wait for the appeals process to be completed. It is not right to bring this to the forefront before the judicial process is completely over.”

Source URL: https://globalrights.info/2012/01/tens-of-thousands-march-in-protest-of-hrant-dink-verdict/