The founder and editor of the Turkish and Armenian bilingual newspaper Agos, Dink was gunned down in the street outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Istanbul on 19 January 2007, in a murder that left a lasting mark on Turkish society because he had been a leading advocate for Turkey’s democratization and for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.
The Istanbul court trying the four imprisoned defendants – former police intelligence section chief Ramazan Akyürek, former intelligence department section chief Ali Fuat Yilmazer, gendarmerie member Muharrem Demirkale and journalist Ercan Gün – will hear the final defence arguments at a hearing on 22 January, at the end of which it will set a date for the verdict.
At the start of this month, the court ordered the arrests of three junior officers in the gendarmerie – Veysel Sahin, Volkan Sahin and Okan Simsek – for “failing to alert their superiors when they had prior knowledge of preparations for the attack against Hrant Dink.”
In the past 14 years, a total of 76 people have been accused of involvement in Dink’s murder. A series of trials have been held without a clear and satisfactory conclusion because the ramifications of the links between hit-man Ogün Samast, who was only 17 at the time, and officials within the police and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have proved to be very complex and subject to political manipulation.
Certain senior military and intelligence officials were excluded from the judicial investigation. The judicial authorities also decided to spare 26 people regarded as responsible for a smear and hate campaign against Dink – a decision which Dink family lawyer Hakan Bakircioglu referred to the European Court of Human Rights in 2019. This is the second time the ECHR has been asked to issue a ruling in connection with the murder. In September 2010, it ordered Turkey to pay 133,000 euros in compensation for failing to protect Dink and for violating his right to freedom of expression.
“The Turkish judicial authorities are preparing to issue a verdict although much remains unclarified,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu said. “It will be impossible to render the justice we all owe to this journalist and man of peace dedicated to Turkish-Armenian reconciliation unless all those who, in one way or another, were involved in his elimination are clearly identified, tried and punished.”
Dink’s was one of the most recent murders of a journalist in Turkey. The trials for the murders of two journalists in the early 1990s, Musa Anterin 1992 and Ugur Mumcuin 1993, are continuing in Ankara in the absence of the perpetrators and instigators. The next hearing in the Anter trial will be on 20 January, and in the Mumcu trial in May.
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.