18 January 2012
An Istanbul court issued the verdict in the case of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist murdered in 2007, sentencing suspect Yasin Hayal to aggravated life imprisonment and suspect Erhan Tuncel to more than 10 years in prison. Tuncel, who has been under arrest since 2007, was released later yesterday based on the time he served.
The court denied allegations of the existence of an organization behind the act in its final verdict. Hayal was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “instigating murder,” while Tuncel was acquitted from all charges pertaining to Dink’s assassination.
Tuncel was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison, however, for his involvement in the bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Black Sea town of Trabzon in 2004. However he was released later yesterday based on the time he served.
“The son of Hrant, Arat Dink, said they were joking with us before, yet they kept the biggest joke for the end. The court said the murder was not an organized crime. I wasn’t expecting this. This decision shows the state’s tradition of bothering its own citizens and making them enemies continues,” said Fethiye Çetin, one of the Dink family lawyers.
“Perhaps this is better because the state showed its own official face,” Hrant Dink’s brother, Yervant Dink, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Following the decision, tension rose in the courtroom with some opposing the decision and the audience was removed. Friends, supporters and family of Hrant Dink then together walked to daily Agos building, where the murder took place almost five years ago, on Jan 19, 2007.
During the 25th hearing of the case yesterday suspect Erhan Tuncel pleaded to the court quoting from Fyodor Dostoyevski and Mevlana Celaleddini Rumi, a 13th century mystic in Anatolia. He said it was Yasin Hayal, the other arrested suspect of the case, who planned and committed the murder.
Tuncel’s lawyer Erdođan Soruklu also claimed his client was a “tailored culprit,” while his connection to the Great Union Party (BBP) was also custom-made. “This incident is an Ergenekon affair,” he said.
However, one of the Dink family’s lawyers, Ýsmail Cem Halavut, argued in court that Prosecutor Hikmet Usta had failed to see the big picture by focusing solely on Dink’s murder.
Halavut denounced the connection drawn by Usta between Dink’s murder and the Ergenekon organization, arguing instead that the assassination could be linked to the murders of Christian missionaries. Dink was threatened, turned into a pariah and finally murdered because of his critical stance regarding Turkey’s policies toward minorities, Halavut said, adding that the Turkish-Armenian journalist would have been spared had he chosen not to write about such matters.
Usta wrongly implicated an Ergenekon cell in the Black Sea province of Trabzon in the official opinion he presented to court, but the murder may have been committed by a more extensive organization, he said.
Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is also thought to be an extension of or a different name for the “deep state,” which is an alleged unofficial organization of bureaucracy and military operating behind the scenes of the official state structure.
Halavut also said they had repeatedly appealed to the court regarding public servants whose negligence played a role in the murder and called for them to be tried. The trial of the public servants could also lead to the gathering of more evidence, he added.