A secret witness who testified as part of the investigation regarding the 2007 murder of journalist Hrant Dink has claimed that the hitman, Ogün Samast, was “sent off by the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command to İstanbul and welcomed by the İstanbul Gendarmerie Command upon his arrival.”
The secret witness, who uses the codename Barış, testified to Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş. He said both the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command and the İstanbul Gendarmerie Command were complicit in the journalist's murder. He also claimed that Giresun Gendarmerie Regional Commander Gen. Dursun Ali Karaduman played a role in the assassination. He claimed that the initial plan was to take Samast to Azerbaijan through Artvin's Hopa district.
The secret witness claimed that gendarmerie intelligence units had been monitoring Dink since 2003. He also claimed that a special team was set up to monitor his every move. “In 2003 or 2004 Dink went to Arguvan, Malatya, to attend a festival and a conference. Starting from that day until the day of his death he was followed by JİTEM systematically.” JİTEM is the name given to a clandestine and illegal unit inside the gendarmerie, believed to be responsible for many assassinations. The witness said sharp-shooting and specially trained gendarmes were assigned to carry out action plans devised under the coup d'état plot called Sledgehammer and that Dink's murder was part of the Cage Action Plan, a subplot of the said coup plan.
Indeed, Dink on July 5-6 attended the 1st Arguvan Turkish Festival, where he made a speech at a panel discussion. In addition to Dink, journalists Oral Çalışlar, Can Dündar and politician and actor Berhan Şimşek also attended the panel discussion.
The secret witness claimed that Samast was accompanied by an NCO from the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command on his way to İstanbul, where his accommodation needs were met by another officer. The NCO from Trabzon also surveyed the Agos office, where Dink was the editor-in-chief. He said a JİTEM officer bought a bus ticket to Hopa with the Metro Turizm bus company. “They were going to hide him in Azerbaijan, near the Karabakh region. Samast also had two GSM cards on him that day, but these were later destroyed,” he said, confirming suspicions of tampering with evidence often voiced by Dink family lawyers. He claimed that the two cards were seized by the gendarmerie shortly after Samast was captured and put in prison. “The murder weapon was also changed. The gun they found on Samast and the one that was used in the murder aren't the same guns.”
According to the secret witness, retired Gen. Veli Küçük, a prime suspect in the trial regarding the clandestine coup-plotting gang Ergenekon and retired Col. Ali Öz, formerly head of the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command, as well as Giresun Regional Gendarmerie Commander Karaduman also played a role in the murder. Öz is already a suspect in the Dink investigation. Other secret witnesses have indicated that he warned gendarmerie officers who had to testify in the trial to “not talk.” Secret witness Barış said Küçük and Karaduman often had meetings.
Karaduman, whom the secret witness speaks of in his testimony, had come under the spotlight on June 20, 2007, when he spoke publicly and unflatteringly of Dink during the funeral of a slain soldier. The retired general read a controversial poem accusing the world of ignoring the deaths of slain soldiers, but focused on Dink. In 2009, a court that heard a compensation request from the Dink family fined Karaduman TL 2,000 for the poem, which it ruled was an insult to the memory of the slain journalist.