Justice for Hrant Dink: More Work to be Done

July 29, 2011

Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his Istanbul office in 2007. © Private

The murder of Hrant Dink on a cold Istanbul street in January, 2007 sent shock waves across Turkey and around the world.

Dink, an ebullient public intellectual and journalist, was a key figure in Turkey’s dwindling Armenian community and an important activist in Turkey’s long struggle for a more liberal, tolerant society.  For this, he was rewarded with state harassment, a public vilification campaign, and, finally, an assassin’s bullet.

The triggerman, Ogün Samast, was quickly arrested and, earlier this week, was sentenced to more than twenty years in prison.  This is an important step.  But given the remarkable discrepancies in the case, it is clear that more needs to be done.

There seems little question that Samast was the tool of a larger conspiracy. The question is whether the Turkish government has the will to address those issues, which may well tie to elements of the security services as well as organized crime figures with extreme nationalist connections.  This week, Andrew Gardner of Amnesty International called on Turkey to continue its investigations , saying:

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…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.

Moroever, Gardner stressed, death threats and state targeting of journalists continues.  For example, Baskın Oran and Etyen Mahçupyan, both journalists at Agos, the newspaper that Dink founded , have been the targets of death threats this year.  In particular, Gardner drew attention to the arrest of journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, both known for their work on human rights.  As has been noted in previous posts, the government has gone to extreme lengths to silence them: they have been held for months in pre-trial detainment and, with little success, the Turkish police attempted to destroy a manuscript which suggested infiltration of the security services by the influential Gülen Movement even before it was published.

Justice for Hrant means a full investigation of the conspiracy that led to his death.  And it means freedom of expression for journalists who follow in his footsteps.