News

March 26, 2021

Turkish journalist’s murder trial verdict “leaves bitter taste”

Press point of "Friends of Hrant Dink" in front of the courthouse in Istanbul on the day of the verdict (c) Fatoş Erdogan
Although an Istanbul court today convicted 27 defendants, mostly members of the state security forces or intelligence officials, for their role in Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink’s murder in 2007, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) insists that justice has not yet been fully rendered and says everyone connected with this crime must be tried in court.

A journalist and intellectual of Armenian origin, Dink was gunned down on an Istanbul street outside the office of Agos, the weekly newspaper he edited, on 19 January 2007.

 

Today, 27 of the 76 persons accused in connection with his murder were given prison sentences ranging from three years to life. Those convicted included former national police intelligence section chief Ramazan Akyürek and former intelligence department section chief Ali Fuat Yilmazer.

 

Four of the defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment on a charge of “attempted subversion.” Eight others were sentenced to an average of seven years in prison for membership of the organisation led by Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Islamic scholar who allegedly masterminded the abortive coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

 

Thirty-three other persons were acquitted and 16 were not included in the verdict (because the cases of 13 of them were separated from this trial, the charges were dropped against two others and one defendant died before start of the trial). The Dink family intends to appeal against today’s verdicts.

 

“This long trial and these convictions must not give the impression that justice has finally been rendered,” said RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu, who observed today’s trial hearing. “Some of those responsible for Hrant Dink’s murder, including the instigators, have still not been prosecuted. Some of the charges on which the defendants were convicted today also suggest that this trial was used to exact political revenge on Fethullah Gülen supporters who used to hold senior positions in the state apparatus. This partial justice rendered after 14 years leaves a bitter taste and, above all, must not signify the end of the search for the truth.”

 

The defendants – mostly police officers but also other state apparatus officials based in Istanbul, Ankara and Trabzon – had been prosecuted for the past six years on a range of charges including “knowingly failing to take measures to protect” Dink, “abuse of office” and membership of the Gülen organisation.

 

Of the 76 persons accused of having at least some degree of involvement in Dink’s murder, seven were in preventive detention. This was the third trial in connection with the murder. At total of seven persons were given prison sentences at the end of the first two trials, including the shooter, Ogün Samast, who was 17 at the time, the person who planned the shooting, and police officers and other state officials.

 

Certain senior officials linked to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and military high command were excluded from this investigation and trial. The court is supposed to subsequently address the cases of 13 defendants who are missing or cannot be located. They include Gülen himself, former anti-terrorism prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who fled to Germany, and the journalists Adem Yavuz Arslan and Ekrem Dumanlı.

 

In 2019, Dink family lawyer Hakan Bakircioglu asked the European Court of Human Rights to examine a Turkish judicial decision not to prosecute 26 people regarded as responsible for smear and hate campaigns against Dink prior to his murder.

 

This was 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’s right to life and for violating his right to freedom of expression.

 

Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.