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Turkey27 March 2007

Call for action against suspected masterminds of journalist’s murder

Reporters Without Borders today appealed to the government to act against those who ordered the 19 January killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink as five people, some of them extreme rightists, were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder.

“We are alarmed at the possible political implications of the case, whose outcome is very important for Turkey’s future,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Those who carried out the murder must not be the only ones to be punished. Many things point to them being supported by various prominent groups and figures. The authorities must put a stop to these machinations,” it said.

Five people were arrested yesterday in Trabzon and taken to Istanbul for questioning, including the head of the Trabzon branch of the extreme-rightwing Great Unity Party (BBP), Yasar Cihan, and a member of the branch committee, Halis Egemen. Cihan was picked up after a photo was found of him with the BBP leader and Erhan Tuncel, one of the suspected masterminds of the killing and an police informer.

An interior ministry report on the murder investigation by national security chiefs which was leaked to the media accuses Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah of failing to protect editor Dink, who was shot dead outside the offices of his weekly newspaper Agos, even though Trabzon police has warned their Istanbul colleagues of a plot to kill Dink. The all-news TV station NTV said Tuncel had warned Trabzon police 17 times about the plot before they passed the message on to Istanbul. The record of the interrogation of one of the suspects, Tuncay Uzundal, was also reportedly forged by Trabzon police.

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