Saturday, January 23, 2010

Three Years After

A crowd of around 3,000 people gathered on Tuesday to commemorate the third anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink, the prominent Turkish Armenian journalist who was slain outside his home by an ultranationalist youth in cooperation with a larger group of ultranationalists speculated to have links to local and national security forces. The Dink murder is speculated to have ties to deep state elements currently being investigated as part of the rather unwieldly and broadly encompassing Ergenekon investigaton. Dink's assassination and the possibility of a wide-reaching coverup have become a rallying cry for progressive reformers. At the end of the commemoration, demonstrators replaced a Sisli street sign reading reading "Ergenekon" with another, re-naming the street for Hrant Dink

The photo posted here is of Dink's assasin, Ogun Samast, and the officers who arrested him. This photo and similar video footage, along with withheld and disappeared evidence and documents like this one proving that security forces iknew about the assassination plot before it took place, have all given reason to think that Dink's assassination involved a large number of people, some perhaps deep within the state structure. The Dink murder trial is still underway, hampered by a variety of difficulties, including the harassment of Dink's family, supporters, and attorneys. Last July, the Prime Ministry Inspection Board released its report of an investigation into security forces' potential neglect/involvement in the Dink assassination. Though critics claimed the Ministry watered it down, the report does indicate that security officials had reason to think the assassination was impending. Much has been made of whether evidence was properly shared with police in Istanbul, and whether officials of the Istanbul Intelligence Unit were also involved.

20 suspects in addition to Samast are also on trial, but in different courts, including eight gendarmerie officers on trial in Trabzon for negligence. Dink's supporters want the trials merged and a comprehensive investigation into all possible elements involved in the murder, arguing that their own future security is also at stake as long as responsible parties enjoy impunity for their crimes. In July, a court in Istanbul ruled against a petition that an investigation be opened into the role of Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah and seven other officers, one of many examples cited of officials' refusal to conduct a proper investigation. Friends of Hrant, an organization of Dink's supporters, this week issued a statement reiterating its demands. Lawyers have applied again to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that Dink's right to life was violated by the state's failure to protect him, as well as other rights that have been violated in the course of the investigation and trials.

For more on Dink's murder and its aftermath, see this excellent 2009 documentary, "For Hrant, For Justice," by Umit Kivanc. (Thanks to Jenny White and Bulent, who posts on this blog as well.)

UPDATE I (1/27) -- In a speech commemorating Hrant Dink, Canadian journalist and human rights activist Naomi Klein used the podium to argue the government of Turkey gives Israel a public relations weapon when it violates the rights of Kurds and Armenians while at the same time criticizing Israel. A strong critic of Israel, Klein lauded Prime Minister Erdogan's denunciations of Israeli war crimes, but noted what she considers the hypocrisy of the Turkish government's position. Hürriyet ran a piece covering the speech, though I doubt it got more attention outside of the English-language press.

UPDATE II (2/8) -- The investigation launched by the Interior Ministry at the behest of the Prime Ministry Inspection Board has cleared 19 police officers working in the National Police department's intelligence unit and the Trabzon local police. The Prime Ministry Inspection Board prompted the investigation at the petition of Dink's wife.

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