Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turkey commemorates Armenian journalist's slaying

19 Jan. 2008
The Canadian Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Thousands of people gathered Saturday to mark the killing of a Turkish Armenian journalist one year ago, placing red carnations on the spot where he was gunned down in daylight and demanding justice in the case.

Wearing black and holding placards reading "For Hrant. For Justice," the protesters paid tribute to Hrant Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origins who angered many by calling the century-old killings of Armenians a genocide. Turkey insists the killings resulted from civil war and unrest in the last days of the First World War.

On Jan. 19, 2007, Dink was gunned down outside his office, allegedly by a hardline nationalist teenager.

The killing brought international condemnation and sparked a debate about freedom of speech in Turkey, where massive crowds took to the streets, chanting: "We are all Armenians, we are all Hrants."

Saturday's crowd repeated the same slogan, before standing for a moment in silence in front of the Agos newspaper office, where Dink had been chief editor. Holding placards written in Turkish, Armenian and English, the mourners then attended a commemoration ceremony at Agos, where a huge photograph of Dink covered part of the newspaper building.

"We are here today because we want justice," his wife, Rakel Dink, said in an address to the mourners, many of whom had pinned pictures of the slain journalist to their chests.

She vowed to press further for justice, saying the judiciary had not followed up on evidence suggesting officials may have been involved in the plot to kill her husband.

Dink had sought to encourage reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, but several years before his death he was prosecuted under Turkish law for describing the early 20th-century mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

"Despite all the past grievances among Turks and Armenians, he never expressed hatred," said Mevlut Yilmaz at the ceremony Saturday. "He was thinking about the future, not the past."

Turkey's top politicians, including the prime minister, have vowed a thorough investigation. An Istanbul court is looking into allegations of official negligence or even collusion, but lawyers for Dink's family have said the investigation is flawed.

The murder trial, which started last year, is taking place behind closed doors because the alleged gunman is a minor. A total of 19 suspects are on trial, and the next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Dink was prosecuted for his Armenian genocide comments under an article of Turkey's penal code, which bans insults to Turkish identity. Despite appeals by the European Union, the law remains unchanged.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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