Thousands took part in a walk in İstanbul on Sunday commemorating the seventh anniversary of the death of Hrant Dink, showing that there remains a persistent conviction that connections behind his assassination have been covered up by the state.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot by a 17-year-old boy, Ogün Samast, on Jan. 19, 2007, in front of the Agos newspaper office, where he served as editor-in-chief. In January 2012, a court ruled on life imprisonment for Yasin Hayal on charges of instigating the murder; another suspect, Erhan Tuncel, was acquitted of murder charges.
In May 2013, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the court's original ruling, which dismissed the existence of an organized criminal network in the case. The lower court, which found no evidence that a terrorist organization was involved in Ogün Samast's assassination of Dink in 2007, had acquitted the suspects of claims that they had been forming a terrorist organization. The court did, however, say they were guilty of forming an illegal and armed organization to commit a crime, prohibited under Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
As part of the ongoing trial over the assassination of Dink, Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş called on Sabri Uzun, the former head of intelligence for the National Police Department, to testify on Jan. 3, 2014. After the initial trial concluded, Akkaş, who is in charge of investigations into terrorism, re-evaluated the Dink case from the beginning, searching for anything previous investigators had missed. However, Uzun submitted to the office of the prosecutor a “heath report” that temporarily prevented him from testifying in court.
The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court has resumed hearing the case and ordered the arrest of two suspects in the trial of Dink's murder, Osman Hayal and Zeynel Abidin, following their absence from a hearing held on Tuesday.
Journalist and Armenian activist Hayko Bağdat told Today's Zaman that one needs to question the state if there is talk of an organization involved in the murder. He also called the Dink assassination a result of a “national agreement” because of the alleged responsibility of multiple parts of the state.
According to him, not only could the Ergenekon terrorist organization have been a potential collaborator in Dink's killing, but so could have other forces within the state. Bağdat noted that the defendants involved in the case, specifically Ali Fuat Yılmazer and Ramazan Akyürek, were promoted in their government posts.
Criticizing Prosecutor Akkaş for not taking any action in the three years since he assumed the case, Bağdat says that due to a confidentiality clause, Dink's friends were not even able to hear who was called to testify in the case. “We only heard that Sabri Uzun was called to the court through the media even though we have been waiting at the door of the prosecutor for some explanation over the past three years,” he said.
Addressing this topic, human rights lawyer and Today's Zaman columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz evaluates the Dink murder from a wider angle and argues that “institutionalized racism” in Turkey is responsible for the process that led to Dink's murder and the subsequent cover-up of his assassination. Referring to memorable photographs that a number of policemen took with the assassin Samast, Cengiz says that in any other country, a scandal like this would have ended with the resignation of the interior minister.
According to him, Turkey has not been able to face crimes committed particularly against non-Muslims and Armenians, which has led to cover-ups in the Dink case. He also said that İstanbul's governor at the time, Muammer Güler, who dismissed threats against Dink, was later promoted despite his negligence in the case. In reference to a race code attributed to non-Muslims by the state since 1923, Cengiz says profiling as such explains why we do not have any non-Muslim policemen, soldiers or prosecutors.
At the commemoration ceremony on Sunday, thousands walked from Taksim to the Agos newspaper office in Osmanbey. However, police restricted access to Gezi Park and Taksim Square before the walk started.
Talking to the media, Fethiye Çetin, the Dink family's lawyer, called for a re-evaluation of the Dink investigation from the beginning to the overturning at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Current Editor-in-Chief of Agos Roper Koptaş also said those who covered up the murder have been declared innocent by the court, which is why the Dink family no longer attends the trials. “There has not been any progress made towards justice,” he said, arguing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has responsibility in the case because it has not revealed those who planned and executed the murder, nor those who have overlooked the importance of it. “We do not expect justice from the state that committed the murder,” he also pointed out.
Meanwhile, a few policemen reportedly wore white berets during the gathering in front of Agos, which raised criticism from the participants because the white beret has become a symbol of Dink's murder since one was also worn by the assassin Samast on the day of the murder. Deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Sebahat Tuncel, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, former deputy Ufuk Uras and columnist Cengiz Çandar also attended the event, in which people chanted for justice.