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Dink verdict

September 14, 2010

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkish authorities failed to protect the life of a dissident journalist who was shot and killed by right-wing extremists.

Mourners holding placards of Hrant Dink
Hrant Dink was seen as a voice for Armenian TurksImage: AP

The European Court of Human Rights has said the Turkish state was negligent and did not do enough to protect the well-being of a journalist who was assassinated in 2007.

Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his newspaper's office, following a series of threats and attacks. The court said authorities should have done more to protect him and have ordered the government to pay 105,000 euros ($135,000) to Dink's family in compensation.

"The Turkish authorities were aware of the danger the journalist was in, yet did nothing to protect him," said a statement from the Strasbourg court.

Hate figure for extremists

Hrant Dink was writer and editor-in-chief of "Agos", a bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper published in Istanbul since 1996. In a series of articles published between 2003 and 2004, he sought to address issues of Armenian identity in modern-day Turkey. His articles were seen as a provocation by extreme nationalist groups who staged demonstrations and wrote threatening letters.

Hrant Dink
Authorities knew there was a plot by nationalists to assassinate DinkImage: AP

From 2004 onwards, Dink was put on trial numerous times for speaking out and opponents alleged that he had insulted the Turkish people in his articles. In October 2005, a complaint was upheld by the criminal court in the Istanbul district of Sisli and Dink was convicted of "offending Turkishness".

Although Dink did not ask for police protection, he did inform them that he regularly received threatening letters from extremists. Police were also aware that there was a plot to assassinate him.

On 19 January 2007 he was shot in the street, killed by three bullets to the head. A suspected assassin was arrested, however proceedings are still ongoing.

Failure to protect life

Protestors outside courtroom in 2008
Many Turks were unhappy with the state's investigation into Dink's murderImage: AP

According to the Strasbourg court, the Turkish authorities knew about the "intense hostility" towards Dink and said the threat of assassination was "real and imminent." Yet none of the three authorities that knew about the risk took any action to prevent it.

The court prosecuted the authorities for failing to uphold Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which lays down that states should guarantee to protect life.

The authorities have also breached Article 2 on a second count of failing to effectively investigate how Dink's death occurred.

Further breaches of Article 10 (suppression of Hrant Dink's freedom of expression) and Article 13 (lack of an effective remedy) of the Convention were also upheld by Strasbourg.

Author: Catherine Bolsover
Editor: Susan Houlton