PROSECUTOR APPEALS DINK RULING, SAYS MURDER WORK OF ERGENEKON

Today's Zaman
March 30 2012
Turkey

An İstanbul prosecutor investigating the 2007 murder of
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink has appealed a January court
verdict that ruled out involvement of an organized criminal network in
the killing, saying the murder was undoubtedly the work of Ergenekon.

Specially Authorized İstanbul Public Prosecutor Hikmet Usta filed
his appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday. Similar to his
final opinion submitted to the İstanbul court hearing the Dink case
in September of last year, the prosecutor insisted that the murder
was committed by Ergenekon's cell in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.

Ergenekon -- a clandestine gang with members nested within the state
hierarchy who are currently on trial for attempting to overthrow
the government by force -- is accused of being behind many atrocious
crimes and plots that sought to create chaos in Turkey with the intent
of triggering a military takeover.

Members of the Friends of Hrant Dink group have welcomed the appeal
as a positive development but took it with a pinch of skepticism. The
Friends of Dink group has been fighting for justice for the slain
journalist over the past years, keeping the trial in the public
spotlight and finding new evidence that the several prosecutors who
changed during the course of the trial often neglected.

Garo Paylan from Friends of Hrant Dink said the prosecutor had had the
opportunity to make this case earlier, but chosen not to do so. "Good
morning is all I can say. These prosecutors have all the authority,
and we have seen in some other cases how they use this authority. In
some cases, they can take solid steps within 10 days." The Dink trial
ended five years after its start with a highly unsatisfactory ruling
for the journalist's family and lawyers.

"This prosecutor didn't push to investigate very solid evidence
presented by the Dink family lawyers," he said; this had happened in
spite of a number of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings
that said the murder investigation was carried out inadequately.

Paylan expressed his belief that some political pressure, including
a report filed by the State Audit Council (DDK), an investigative
body under the president's office, which pointed out many gaps in
the investigation, was the real reason behind the prosecutor's appeal.

He added: "The sloppiness of the investigation was documented during
the court process, by the ECtHR rulings, and this positive step comes
at a time when there is no way to hide anything anymore. This is a
positive step, but it comes out of an obligation."

He said now whether the murder investigation will deepen and possibly
extend to public officials and security force officers who appear to
be involved remains to be seen.

"We have generally lost our sense of excitement. The prosecutor
is now saying what we have said for the past five years inside the
courtroom and on the streets. More than 80 petitions we filed have
been rejected. There was no effective investigation at any stage of
this trial. None of the suspects, who were convicted or released,
are individuals who might help truly illuminating the case," said
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hayko Bagdat.

He said it was going to depend on the Supreme Court of Appeals'
ultimate decision if a new and efficient investigation can be
conducted. "All I know is this: Whomever we petitioned during the
course of the trial, he felt closer to the murderer."

The prosecutor said in the appeal that the Dink murder is a "flawless"
Ergenekon plot, and that the court failed to make an accurate
assessment of the incident in this regard. He said the court should
have waited for a decision from another court currently hearing the
Ergenekon case.

Usta also dismissed a reasoned decision of the court that said there
was insufficient evidence to prove wider involvement in the murder,
although the court had said the murder appears to be the work of a
criminal network. He added that the court should have instead asked
the prosecution to broaden their investigation in this regard.

Editor-in-chief of bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos and Turkey's
best known Armenian voice abroad, Dink was shot in broad daylight on a
busy İstanbul street as he left his office on Jan. 19, 2007. In what
many said was a shocking and frustrating ruling in the five-year-long
trial in the Dink case, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court in
January cleared all suspects of charges of membership in a terrorist
organization, angering lawyers and many others who say the trial
failed to shed light on alleged connections between the suspects and
state officials.

The court convicted Yasin Hayal, a major suspect in the killing, of
instigating a murder and sentenced him to life in prison, while another
suspected instigator, Erhan Tuncel, was acquitted by the court. A
juvenile court had already sentenced Dink's assassin, Ogun Samast, to
22 years, 10 months last July. He was 17 when the killing took place.

Usta ruled out that Dink murder suspects Alper Esirgemez, İrfan
Ozkan, Osman Alpay, Erbil Susaman, Numan ~^i~_man, ~^enol Akduman
and Veysel Toprak were members of a criminal organization, but argued
that they hid Hayal in their home after the bombing of a McDonalds in
Trabzon, medically treated him and financed his escape to İstanbul. He
added in his 30-page long appeal that they didn't report his crime
to police, directly or indirectly helping the organization, and hence
should be treated as members of the criminal organization.

In the appeal, suspects Ya~_ar Cihan and Halis Egemen are also
accused of helping the organization and the prosecutor is asking they
be convicted and sentenced for these charges.

In 2010, the ECtHR ordered Turkish authorities to pay 100,000 euros
($132,600) to Dink's family in compensation, saying authorities had
failed to protect Dink even though they knew ultranationalists were
plotting to kill him. Seven security officials have already been
convicted for failing to relay information about the plot that could
have prevented the murder.

In a statement ahead of the recent January verdict, Amnesty
International said authorities had still not investigated the
full circumstances behind Dink's murder. Dink had been repeatedly
prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness" under the infamous Article 301
of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which was later amended to placate
EU criticism that Turkey was violating freedom of expression.

The prosecutor said in the appeal that suspects Tuncel and Hayal are
the leader and manager of the organization and that Hayal had even
threatened Turkish Nobel Literature laureate Orhan Pamuk after his
arrest. The appeal detailed in great length suspicious behaviors by
the suspects, who the prosecutor said point to them being members of
a criminal organization.

The petition also argued that all assassinations attempts and similar
plans stopped in 2008, when the Ergenekon investigation started.

Finally, Usta requested the court restart the case if there is other
evidence related to the Dink murder, but added that it is unclear
what kind of evidence the court is looking for as it's not possible
to restart the case based on the same charges.