While the special prosecutor’s office in İstanbul on Monday launched an investigation into 28 public officials, as announced at the 16th hearing in the case of the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the French Green Party’s Hélène Flautre said the decision to investigate those officials is an important step and will put pressure on the government to support a solution.
“Four years after the assassination, it’s quite a pity that the perpetrators of the assassination are still not in court, even though the Dink family lawyers have long been demanding it,” said Flautre, who also serves as co-chairperson of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and regularly attends Dink case hearings, as her predecessor Joost Lagendijk had done.
She said the change in the head of the court is a signal that there needs to be some changes in how the Dink case is being handled. The decision to investigate key public officials suspected of neglecting their duty to protect Dink, who was receiving death threats prior to his assassination, came as the head of the court was removed due to the recent reforms in the judicial system following the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) removed Erkan Canak from the court on grounds that an earlier Ministry of Justice report claimed he had close contacts with suspects in the Ergenekon case, a clandestine underground network accused of attempting to create chaos and plotting to overthrow the government. The newly appointed judge, Rüstem Eryılmaz, presided over the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which is hearing the Dink case, on Monday.
The special prosecutor’s investigation will include former İstanbul Governor Muammer Güler, former İstanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah, former director of the Trabzon Police Department Reşat Altay, former head of the Intelligence Department of the General Directorate of Security (TNP) Ramazan Akyürek and former commander of the Trabzon Gendarmerie Battalion Colonel Ali Öz. Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin said at the hearing that some new evidence must be taken into consideration by the court, as data presented in two new books might shed light on some events related to Dink’s murder by ultranationalist teenager Ogün Samast outside the office of his newspaper, Agos, in broad daylight in İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007. Flautre said that the European Court of Human Rights’s (ECtHR) judgment on Sept. 14, 2010 in the Dink v. Turkey case -- in which Turkey was found to be in violation of Articles 2 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, related to the “right to life” and “freedom of expression,” respectively -- was also important in the Turkish court’s changing its attitude toward the Dink case.
“The Turkish court has to comply with the ruling of the ECtHR,” she said. “It’s an important, detailed and clear decision. It puts pressure on the court.”
The ECtHR found Turkey in violation in two major respects -- the first was Turkey’s inability to protect Dink’s life, and the second was Turkey’s inability to carry out an effective investigation to expose and punish those who neglected to protect Dink by not acting on available intelligence.
Meanwhile, President Gül ordered the State Audit Institution (DDK) to investigate Dink’s assassination and officials from the DDK are expected to meet with Dink’s family members and lawyers to receive their testimonies. Saying that the president’s initiative is also a step forward, Flautre said that there have been “unintelligible” happenings at the hearing, such as the lack of witnesses and the fact that the report from video recordings of the area where Dink was murdered was not still prepared. Four years after Dink’s murder, the trial has yet to be concluded, despite mounting evidence regarding the real perpetrators of the crime.
Interior minister: Investigation into 28 officials not started
Interior Minister Beşir Atalay has said no investigation has been initiated into 28 public officials, as a special prosecutor had announced during the Feb. 7 hearing in the trial concerning the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Answering questions from reporters yesterday, Atalay said in Ankara that his ministry has no knowledge of such an investigation and that there is “information pollution.” Meanwhile, current Osmaniye Governor and former İstanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah released a press statement through his lawyer, Mehmet Köksal, who said his client has no connection to the murder of Dink and that the news of a new investigation into him is not correct. Köksal added that if similar news continues to appear in the media, they will seek legal recourse.
Referring to the decision of the İstanbul District Administrative Court in December of last year, Köksal said his client had been cleared. As there needs to be permission from the governor’s office to investigate public officials and the governor’s office did not grant permission in relation to the Dink case, the Dink family lawyers filed an appeal and the İstanbul District Administrative Court had ruled that there is no need to further investigate the issue since there has been no new evidence.
Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin reminded the court on Monday that two new books on the murder of Dink contain new evidence even though that evidence never found its way to the case file. Çetin said they will apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding the administrative court’s decision, which came only two weeks after the finalization of an ECtHR ruling stating that Turkey was not able to carry out an effective investigation to expose and punish those who neglected to protect Dink by not acting on intelligence indicating that his life was in imminent danger.
Çetin had told Today’s Zaman on Monday that the administrative court is resisting and does not comply with the rule of law.