The scandalous outcome of the Hrant Dink murder case that was being heard at a court of first instance led tens of thousands of people to take to the streets, shouting, “This trial won’t end like this,” on the fifth anniversary of Dink’s death.
Not only the public, but also President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, other ministers and opposition party leaders expressed their discontent with the court’s decision. Strikingly, the presiding judge and the prosecutors’ claims went back and forth concerning the court’s ruling that there was no criminal organization associated with the crime, and even the prosecutor claimed that the presiding judge committed a crime with this ruling. The court of first instance’s decision to sentence instigator Yasin Hayal to life in prison is now being appealed at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
At this point, the Presidency’s State Audit Institution (DDK), which was created on President Gül’s instruction after the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) found Turkey to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on Dec. 17, 2010, recently issued a report on the murder of Dink. It is claimed that the report was completed on Feb. 2, 2012, but its announcement was delayed because of the recent National Intelligence Organization (MİT) crisis that erupted as there were some points in the report that also concerned MİT as well. I don’t know whether this crisis had any effect on the writing or observations of this report. Indeed, both the MİT crisis and the Dink case overlap with respect to the litigation against state officials.
The DDK’s report essentially says this: The offenses committed by state officials have not been effectively investigated since the pro-Community of Union and Progress (CUP) committee, which overthrew the government in 1913, passed a provisional law, i.e., for about a century. In 1913, CUP passed this law possibly to cover up its probable future crimes or offenses it would make state officials commit.
This law has been in place for 86 years even though governments changed one after another. But, in 1999, Turkey was cornered with the cases brought against it at the ECtHR and the European Union wanted it to change this law. It was replaced with Law No. 4483, but it is equally problematic. Indeed, it provides ambiguous definitions about offenses state officials may commit and the investigation period is specified as 25 days. In complicated cases like the Dink murder case, it is impossible to be productive in 25 days even if you manage to obtain administrative permission for launching an investigation. Moreover, the coup perpetrators of 1980 completed what was left unfinished by the coup perpetrators of 1913 by introducing a constitutional guarantee for state officials in Article 129 of the Constitution, which we still use. Article 129 gives an equivocal definition of a crime and empowers the administration, not the judiciary, with the litigation against state officials.
Admitting Dink murder was committed by organized crime group
Speaking on the DDK report, Cem Halavurt, a lawyer representing the Dink family, told Barçın Yinanç from the Hürriyet Daily News that such a report by a top state institution may be a turning point in the Dink case. With this report, the state admits that the Dink murder was committed by an organized crime group. Furthermore, the report acknowledges that the murder case was not resolved just because a number of hitmen were convicted and that several police and security officers who contributed to the commission of the crime through negligence were not properly investigated or prosecuted despite clear evidence and that they were not brought to trial.
Counsel Halavurt recalls that the DDK report repeats what they have been telling the court for five years. “The DDK did not make a gesture with this report; such investigations are among the duties and missions of the state. The fact that the DDK said the security officials should have been prosecuted for involvement in the murder in addition to acts of negligence shows the reaction of the president to the court verdict. With this reaction, the president implied that the murder was not ordinary and that it might have been committed by an organized group.”
Halavurt was also asked whether he had a clear image in his mind about the murder. In response, he said neo-nationalists who were favoring the preservation of the status quo planned such actions in the 2000s, when Turkey was going through a process of huge transformation following its bid for EU membership. It is possible to make such an argument because we have a number of incidents that corroborate this, including plots and plans on murder, provocation, coups and warnings. This argument was also spelled out in the legal view and evaluation by the prosecutor who reviewed the case. All relevant actors, including the politicians, said this suspicion emerged out of the overall outlook. The prosecutor also concluded that such a huge and significant murder could not have been committed by a few children who were selling goods on the street. The judge also admitted that they realized there was an organization behind the murder but were unable to spot it in the evidence submitted.
However, in other parts of the interview, the argument was put forth that the pro-reformist coalition led by the government which fought with neo-nationalists purposefully allowed the Dink murder to initiate the Ergenekon operations. However, the incidents and events that would justify the launch of the Ergenekon operations, including the Father Santoro murder and the Council of State attack, were already there before the Dink murder. That said, I must note that the Council of State murder and the Ergenekon case were merged.
In conclusion, I hope the DDK report raises the morale of the judiciary.