Dink murder probe may expand to include ‘pre-warned’ colonel

July 19, 2008, Saturday/ 21:13:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
Inspectors from the Interior Ministry investigating the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink have requested permission to launch an inquiry into several individuals claimed to have prior information about the plot to assassinate Dink, reported Milliyet daily yesterday.
According to Milliyet, upon direction by Interior Minister Beşir Atalay earlier this month, ministry inspectors launched a preliminary inquiry into the assassination of Dink, who was shot dead in broad daylight outside the office of his newspaper, Agos, in İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007.

Suspicious of contradictory statements by former commander of the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command Col. Ali Öz and intelligence chief Capt. Metin Yıldız, who previously refused to cooperate with the investigation, inspectors asked Trabzon Governor Nuri Okutan earlier this week to grant them authorization to launch an investigation into Öz and Yıldız, along with five gendarmerie officers who allegedly had knowledge of the plot to murder Dink months before the incident occurred.  

An investigation in the wake of the Dink assassination revealed that a group of ultra-nationalist youths were behind the murder. Strong evidence suggested that some members of the group had ties with the police department in northern Trabzon, the hometown of the plotters. Some gendarmerie officers later confirmed that they had been tipped off about the plot to kill Dink before the murder was committed.

Sgt. Maj. Okan Ş. and Sgt. Veysel Ş., who appeared in a Trabzon court in March on charges of dereliction of duty for failing to take the necessary measures to prevent Dink’s death, confessed that they had been informed about the murder plot months before his assassination. “We wanted to share this information with Col. Öz, but he covered up the issue. He forced us to give false statements during the course of the investigation,” they said.

Öz, who was serving as the Bilecik provincial gendarmerie commander at the time of the murder, was removed from his position and sent to the Bursa Regional Command.

Interior Ministry inspectors asked Öz and Yıldız about the allegations, and they replied that they “might have forgotten about being informed of the plot.” However, the two had previously denied having prior knowledge of the plot.

If permission is granted to the ministry inspectors, Öz, Yıldız and five gendarmerie officers will face a probe on suspicion of dereliction of duty for failing to act on warnings before the Dink murder.

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