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Gulen link to Hrant Dink murder?

January 19, 2017

It has been ten years since the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Criminal proceedings against responsible officials are still ongoing. The public prosecutor believes there are links to the Gulen network.

Türkei Gedenkfeier Hrant Dink ehemaliger Chefredaktuer von Agos
Image: picture alliance/AA/B. Doruk

Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot on January 19, 2007 on Istanbul's streets. Dink was the editor of "Agos," the only Armenian newspaper in Turkey.  Investigations into his murder have been running since February 2008. An underage nationalist, Ogün Samast, was convicted of the killing and sentenced to 22 years in 2011. Another ultranationalist, Yasin Hayal, considered to have pulled the strings, was sentenced to life behind bars.

Then the trials began of public officials who were charged with instigating the murder, or at least not preventing it. In the early years, the Istanbul attorney general believed that the "Ergenekon" organization was behind the murder. This group was accused of plotting a 2003-04 coup, and was the subject of a major set of trials in Turkey in 2013.

Nationalists suspected first, but now it's Gulen

But now, at least according to the public prosecutor's office, all clues in the Dink case are pointing to the government's latest internal foes, the Gulen movement.

Turkey's government accuses the Gulen movement of organizing illegally within the police, army and the education and legal systems for years; it blames them for last year's failed coup attempt. Ankara has been aggressively pursuing alleged members of the movement. However, at the time of Dink's assassination, the Gulen movement was still a close ally of the ruling AK Party.

Ten years on, all eyes are now on the latest court cases with their 35 defendants. They include the former police chief in Istanbul and former secret service members.

Hakan Bakırcıoglu is one of Hrant Dink's lawyers. He said in an interview with DW that the investigations into the public officials by the Istanbul justice department are believed to have turned up important findings. These suggest that the perpetrator, Ogün Samast, had help from third parties, including people connected to the Istanbul and Trabzon police forces. "We believe that it is important that the full truth is revealed. That is why we will press this case until our legal avenues are exhausted."

In the coming days defense pleas will be finalized. On top of that, statements from 30 witnesses will be taken down. Then the public prosecutor will finalize the indictment.

Hrant Dink
Dink's murder remains the subject of investigation after 10 years, but are authorities picking the latest suspects to fit recent developments in Turkey?Image: AP

'We want to live up to Dink's ideals'

At the same time, the Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, founded by Dink, has been trying to stay in business despite financial problems. Editor Yetvart Danzikyan told DW about the last decade at the embattled paper. " From day one, we have been trying to do justice to the struggle Dink led for peace and open dialogue."

Danzikyan goes on to say that despite the difficult circumstances under which Agos is published, the newspaper hopes to show to society and government the dark powers behind Dink's death. "Agos is able to exist thanks to the Armenian community. We survive from funds raised through small advertisements or subscriptions. We are read by Armenians in Armenia and also those in the diaspora. Despite everything, we will continue to be the voice of the Armenian community."

'Armenian issue is being exploited'

Danzikyan says that the Armenian issue remains a dangerous and divisive one in Turkey. One example was when a representative of the pro-Kurdish HDP was banned from three parliamentary sittings because he used the term "genocide" in parliament. Danzikyan points out that the ruling AKP, the nationalist MHP and the more liberal opposition CHP all agreed on this punishment.

"It was not the first time Garo Paylan had used the term 'genocide' at the lectern," Danzikyan recalls. "He had said it before. But, as you can see, such reactions are a result of the way the general atmosphere is at the moment. It's also hard to believe that the AKP is really on the level with its actions regarding Armenians. It wasn't in the case of the Kurdish conflict. Just like the Kurdish conflict, the Armenian issue gets exploited by the AKP to fit the current mood."