A prosecutor conducting the investigation into the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink has announced that he will be looking at possible links between the murder and Ergenekon, a clandestine gang charged with plotting to overthrow the government.
Prosecutor Hikmet Usta, who is expected to give his reasoned opinion on the case in the next hearing of the trial at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court scheduled for May 30, sent a request on Thursday to the İstanbul Police Department asking for the phone records of all 20 suspects, including hitman Ogün Samast.
He also requested an investigation into the links between the suspects and the suspects in the case of a hidden weapons cache unearthed in İstanbul's Poyrazköy district two years ago. The Poyrazköy weapons case is an Ergenekon-related investigation. They have many suspects in common, and the investigators have evidence indicating that the weapons found were meant to be used by Ergenekon.
Erdal Doğan, who was formerly a co-plaintiff in the Dink case, welcomed the decision but added that it came late. He said a similar situation applied to the Zirve murders of 2007, where three missionaries were brutally killed in Malatya. Their killers also appeared to have shady links.
Doğan said the prosecutor who initially investigated the case, Atilla Ceylan, had caused a major delay in the trial, which has been going on for four years now. “This was an important waste of time,” he said, adding: “There is obviously negligence here. Indeed, I believe it is something beyond negligence.” He said the decision to deepen the probe in the Dink investigation was a positive development but also reiterated that it indicated serious earlier negligence on the part of the prosecution.
Twenty suspects are currently on trial, charged with involvement in the murder of Dink, who was shot outside his office on Jan. 19, 2007 by a teenager who claimed he was a nationalist but later proved to have questionable connections to various individuals.
Shortly after the assassination, it came out that Erhan Tuncel, one of the suspects accused of soliciting Samast, who was 17 at the time, to murder Dink had previously acted as an informant for the Trabzon Police Department.
Yasin Hayal, another suspect facing accusations similar to those of Tuncel, was convicted in 2005 in connection with a bomb explosion at a Trabzon McDonald's in October 2004. A young girl was injured in the explosion. Hayal served only 10 months in jail, which the Dink family says is one of many reasons why it believes the suspects have connections of a different kind.
In the trial's most recent hearing, Usta said it could be possible to try the Dink suspects under Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on “violations of the Constitution.” Usta asserts that the scope of the assassination falls under the category of terrorism in that it has caused enormous public outrage.
In related developments, two former police chiefs who served in Trabzon -- Reşat Altay and Emin Arslan -- and chief police inspector Levent Yarımel testified to a court in Rize. A prosecutor is accusing the three of various crimes ranging from negligence to even assisting the assassins prior to the murder. A court earlier ruled to dismiss the prosecutor's complaint, but the prosecutor's office appealed the ruling, putting the three men's actions once more under judicial review. The Rize court will decide whether to overturn the dismissal.