Reporters Without Borders welcomes a new book by investigative reporter Nedim Sener that sheds light on the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish newspaper editor of Armenian origin who was gunned down on the street outside the office of his weekly Agos in the Istanbul district of Sisli exactly four years ago today.
Released four days ago by Turkish publishing house Dogan and entitled “Red Friday: who broke Dink’s pen?”, Sener’s book accuses the Istanbul police of lying at the start of the trial of those accused of murdering Dink.
Sener supports this claim with a copy of a memo dated 2 March 2004 (three years before Dink’s murder), in which Istanbul deputy director of security Hakan Aydin Türkeli requests protection for Dink’s home and office because of threats prompted by an article about the Armenian origin of the Sabiha Gökçen, the adopted daughter of the Turkish republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and another article entitled “Armenian Identity.”
The memo said Dink had been threatened by ultranationalist groups. During a protest outside Agos on 26 February 2004, Dink had a received a threatening phone call in which he was told: “Hrant Dink, you are now the target of our hate! You are now in the Turkish nation’s sights!”
Türkeli sent his memo explicitly requesting protection for Dink to the police in Bakirköy, the neighbourhood where Dink lived, to the police in Sisli, where the newspaper is located, and to the police anti-terrorism department. These police units all denied having been told about threats to the newspaper editor.
In response to a request by the Dink family’s lawyer, senior Istanbul police officers were questioned on 1 May 2008 about the threats Dink had received before his death. Former police intelligence chief Ali Fuat Yilmazer replied: “We have no information to the effect that (Hrant) Dink received any threat whatsoever before he was murdered.” Anti-terrorism section chief Selim Kutkan said: “No document of this nature exists in police archives.”
The book also asks the following question: How is it possible that the Istanbul police were unaware of a later warning in a report dated 15 February 2006 from the police in Trabzon (the home town of most of the accused killers), which clearly stated that, “Yasin Hayal is going to kill Hrant Dink at all costs.”
Sener’s book also reports that Ogün Samast, the youth who allegedly shot Dink, was relieved to be arrested the day after the murder because “a nationalist group was ready to eliminate him as soon as he arrived in the city of Giresun.” That at least is what Samast told investigators from the prime minister’s office on 15 April 2008 although he refused to sign the statement.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Turkish courts to take account of the facts reported in Sener’s book when reaching their decisions in this case, following the lead taken by the European Court of Human Rights last September. It is vital that all those who were in any way involved in this terrible murder should be brought to justice, regardless of their position within the state apparatus.
The next hearing in the trial of the 19 people currently being tried before an Istanbul court for Dink’s murder will take place on 7 February. During the last hearing, Samast’s case was unexpectedly transferred to a court for minors in Sultanahmet on the grounds that he was a minor at the time of the murder .
Dink’s death will be commemorated at 3 p.m. today in Sisli, at the place where he was gunned down.