Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Dink murder trial prompts renewed calls for justice

Southeast European Times, MD

Turkey must ensure that all those behind the assassination journalist Hrant Dink are brought to justice to avoid damage to its image within the EU, a European lawmaker said Tuesday.

The Turkish authorities were criticised Tuesday (February 12th) for failing to act on demands for a full-blown investigation into the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink to ensure that all involved in the plot will face justice.

A day after the third hearing in the case against 19 people charged in the murder of the founder and editor of the Istanbul-based bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly, Agos, observers appeared increasingly sceptical that the whole truth will ever be established.

"We reiterate our support for all who are calling for the judicial system to do its job in this case," the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on Tuesday. "We regret that the conditions are not in place for the truth to emerge… In these circumstances, we doubt that the judges will manage to establish once and for all the responsibility and guilt of the different protagonists."

Dink, 53, was gunned down on January 19th 2007 outside his newspaper's offices. In July 2006, he was given a six-month suspended sentence after being convicted on charges of "denigrating Turkishness" because of an article in which he described the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as "genocide".

A hardline nationalist from the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Ogun Samast -- the primary suspect in the case – has confessed to the murder, citing Dink's statements on the Armenian issue as his motive. The other defendants include Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, a police informer.

Reports following the journalist's murder indicated that the police had received more than one tip-off about the assassination, but had failed to take any action to prevent it. Dink family lawyers have also repeatedly claimed that there has been destruction of evidence and that the authorities have refused to probe the suspected involvement of members of the country's security forces in the plot.

"The trial cannot proceed in a healthy manner because documents containing information on more than 6,000 telephone calls made by some of the defendants have been destroyed by security officials in Trabzon," Lawyer Erdal Dogan said.

Dutch member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission Joost Lagendijk attended the court hearing. He criticised the Turkish government for failing to act on its promise for a proper investigation into the case to reveal all who were involved in it.

"It's clear that police officers and security services knew about these plans, but they didn't act," he told the BBC. "Or some of them were probably actively involved in the planning. All of these things should be dealt with in this court case, and if it doesn't happen, it will leave a very dirty stain on Turkey's image."

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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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