Turkey urged to pursue further prosecutions in Hrant Dink murder case

News
July 26, 2011

Turkey urged to pursue further prosecutions in Hrant Dink murder case

Amnesty International has again called on the Turkish authorities to investigate alleged collusion and negligence by state officials in the 2007 killing of journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink, after one man was sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison for his murder.

Ogün Samast was sentenced by an Istanbul Children’s Court on Monday. He was initially given a life sentence but the term was commuted because he was a minor at the time of the murder. Eighteen other people are currently on trial for their involvement in the murder.

"While the sentencing of Ogün Samast is welcome news, he is just one of the people responsible for Hrant Dink's murder. The authorities must investigate all the circumstances around his death and bring everyone responsible to justice, whatever their position of power," said Andrew Gardner Amnesty International's expert on Turkey.

“The murder of Hrant Dink came after he was prosecuted by the Turkish authorities for his writings on the identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian origin. His murder was apparently committed with the tacit agreement of elements within the Turkish law enforcement agencies. This cannot go unpunished."

In September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Turkish authorities had failed to act on information they received that could have prevented Hrant Dink's murder and had failed to investigate the role of state officials in his death.

In June 2011, Colonel Ali Öz and seven other military personnel were convicted of negligence for their failure to relay information regarding the plot to kill Hrant Dink which could have prevented the murder.

Hrant Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin, was killed on 19 January 2007. The editor of the Agos newspaper and contributor to the influential daily Zaman, he was shot outside the Agos offices in Istanbul.

In June 2011, death threats were made against Etyen Mahçupyan and Baskın Oran,  both journalists at Agos newspaper. Similar threats have been made at various times since 2004 for which no one has been brought to justice.

Hrant Dink was best known for being critical of the Turkish government over issues of Armenian identity and over official versions of history in Turkey relating to the massacres of Armenians in 1915. He was repeatedly prosecuted for expressing his opinions.
 
In 2005, he was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for "denigrating Turkishness" in writings about the identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian origin.

Others in Turkey have since been prosecuted, like Hrant Dink, under legislation that is used to prosecute dissenting opinions violating the right to freedom of expression.

In March this year, eight journalists were arrested for being members of Ergenekon, an alleged ultra-nationalist network with links to the Turkish state.

Two of the eight, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are investigative journalists known for their work exposing human rights abuses by elements within state institutions. They remain in pre-trial detention awaiting trial for being members of a terrorist organization.

"The Turkish authorities must take action to ensure that dissenting voices are not silenced by legislation or threats of violence," said Andrew Gardner. "The people of Turkey must be free to express their opinions without fear of death or imprisonment."