HRANT DINK'S HIT MAN WAS NOT SAMAST, CLAIM NEW WITNESSES

Today's Zaman
April 21 2009
Turkey

Five individuals convicted of unrelated crimes testified as witnesses
yesterday in the murder trial of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant
Dink, who was shot dead in broad daylight by an ultra-nationalist
teenager outside the office of his newspaper, Agos, in Istanbul on
Jan. 17, 2007.

Witness Volkan Eryol, who testified in the Istanbul 14th High Criminal
Court yesterday, said he had heard a cellmate named Ertugrul Balci
state that it was not Ogun Samast, the teenager who is currently
standing trial as the suspected hit man, but another person who shot
Dink on that day.

Another witness, Sinasi Senturk, said he had heard details from
Balci. The two witnesses said they had petitioned the court to testify
when they heard the information Balci gave them in prison. In his
testimony, Senturk said: "Balci told us that the individuals that are
currently suspects in the Dink incident actually did not have anything
to do with the murder. Normally, we wouldn't have paid attention,
but Balci corresponded with important people. He also said he knew
who the real murderer was."

The Dink family lawyers had previously stated their suspicions that
a second person accompanied Samast on the day of the murder. Veli
Halis Celik, another inmate at the Silivri Prison Complex where the
other witnesses are also serving jail time for unrelated crimes,
gave the same testimony.

Photo: A group of people identifying themselves as "Friends of Hrant"
held a demonstration yesterday on Barbaros Boulevard in Besiktas. The
group complained that authorities were unable to uncover who had issued
the order to kill Dink although more than two years have passed since
the murder. The group later sang songs in memory of Dink and dispersed
without major incident.

Celik said Balci, who gave the information to the witnesses, was
the son of Sukru Balci, a former police chief at the Istanbul Police
Department.

The witnesses also noted that they were moved to a different ward after
petitioning the court to testify as witnesses. Two other witnesses,
named as Orcun Curek and Adil Orhan, reiterated the testimony of the
earlier witnesses in yesterday's trial. Curek said Samast was used as a
"pawn."

Court questions Samast Samast, the prime suspect in the Dink murder
trial, was questioned by the Dink family lawyers yesterday. Samast
refused to respond to the lawyers' question on whether he had testified
at the Prime Ministry Inspection Board. In response to a question on
how he was able to find the location of the Agos daily in Istanbul,
he said he had asked around. Samast appeared reluctant to reply to
the lawyers' questions in court yesterday.

French delegation following Dink trial A delegation of five lawyers
from France also followed yesterday's trial. The French lawyers said
they came to show solidarity with the Dink family. The Istanbul Bar
Association released a press statement on the delegation's visit,
saying the Paris Bar Association had requested to join the trial as
observers; a request which was denied by the Istanbul Bar Association
on the grounds that if delegation was granted observant status,
it could harm the independence of the judiciary. The Istanbul Bar
Association said they had invited the delegation from Paris to monitor
the trial not as an institution, but as individuals.