Turkey12 February 2008
Third hearing in Dink murder trial increases doubts that it will identify all those involved
Observers voiced disappointment with the conduct of the trial of 19 persons for the January 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink after a third hearing was held yesterday in the Istanbul suburb of Besikta. The press is not being allowed to attend the trial.
The Dink family’s lawyers continued to question defendants with the aim of establishing the degree of police involvement in the murder, but one of the leading defendants, Erhan Tuncel, refused to answer while another, Coskun Igci, who had been expected to be a good source of information, was absent for unexplained reasons.
“We reiterate our support for all those who are calling for the judicial system to do its job in this case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We regret that the conditions are not in place for the truth to emerge. Some defendants think they have right not to answer the questions put by the Dink family’s lawyers. Others are absent without explanation. In these circumstances, we doubt that the judges will manage to establish once and for all the responsibility and guilt of the different protagonists.”
Before the trial resumed, journalists were for the first time allowed to visit the courtroom and, for example, examine the recording system installed at the request of the civil parties (the Dink family), which is meant to help in preparing a transcript of all testimony and to allow suspects or witnesses to give evidence to the court from another location.
Instead of answering questions, Tuncel kept repeating, “I did everything they asked me to do.” Referring to the murder victim’s widow, Rakel Dink, he said, “She regards herself as a saint.” He nonetheless gave the names of three police officers in Trabzon (the city where most of the defendants live) with whom he said he was in contact: Engin Yilmaz, Mumduh Abi and Mühittin Zenit.
Another defendant, Yasin Hayal, answered the questions put to him by the Dink family’s lawyers. The young man said Tuncel helped him organise the 2004 bombing of a McDonald’s in Trabzon for which he, Hayal, was convicted. He said he had considered protecting Tuncel again as regards his complicity in the Dink murder, but finally decided to denounce him after it was revealed that he was a police informer. He said Tuncel had put him in contact with many people including members of the Chechen high command. Hayal had to be called to order several times for smiling and waving to members of his family in the courtroom.
The absence of Hayal’s brother-in-law, Igci, was noticed. Igci gave key evidence in the trial of two Trabzon police officers for “abuse of an official position” that began on 22 January. Igci testified that he worked as an informer and provided the two policemen with regular information about the preparations to murder Dink. He said he told them what Hayal had told him, namely that he, Hayal, knew the address of Dink’s newspaper, Agos, and was determined to shoot Dink. Igci added that he always did what the two police officers told him to do.
Joost Lagendijk, a member of the European parliament and head of its EU-Turkey mixed commission, voiced dissatisfaction with the trial yesterday. “I am here to see that justice is done,” he said. “We notice that those within the police and gendarmerie who were warned about the plan to murder Dink are not in the dock with the other defendants (...) The government’s promises have not materialised. We are at the end of our patience.”
A collective formed by 18 leading figures, including academics, parliamentarians and journalists gave a news conference at which they said it was essential to “wipe clean the stain” of Dink’s murder to ensure that people are no longer targeted in Turkey because of their views. The country had a “minimum duty” to establish all the support that Dink’s murderers received, they said.
Around 500 people demonstrated yesterday in a square.