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Turkey21 February 2008

Istanbul police chief may finally be investigated for failure to stop Dink murder

Reporters Without Borders hails an Istanbul administrative court’s decision that Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah and his aides should be investigated for their failure to take appropriate precautions after being warned of a plot to kill newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who ended up being murdered on 19 January 2007.

“We welcome this decision as a step in the right direction towards identifying all those who had some degree or another or responsibility in this case,” the press freedom organisation said. “On the other hand, we deplore the fact that the Dink family, which is clearly a party to this case, was not informed of this and other developments that are of primordial interest to it.”

Dink family lawyer Fethiye Cetin revealed on 19 February that the administrative court had overturned a decision by the governor of Istanbul and had ordered a more thorough investigation into those at the head of the police department. Cetin said the lawyers representing the civil parties in the Dink case were not notified of this decision and learned about it from their own sources.

He added that they had decided to address a complaint to the Istanbul prefecture and the interior ministry about the failure to keep them informed of judicial and administrative developments in the case. “Unfortunately we only learn about the steps being taken (...) from the press and from our own resources,” he said. “We demand the punishment of those who show themselves to be negligent.”

The Dink family accuses the Istanbul police of failing to take the necessary precautionary measures after police in the northeastern city of Trabzon, where the murder was planned, informed them several months before the murder that Yasin Hayal, one of its chief masterminds, had gone to Istanbul. The Trabzon police even told their Istanbul counterparts that he was staying with his brother Osman, a baker based in the Asian side of the city.

Interior minister Besir Atalay has appointed two inspectors and a veteran police official to prepare a detailed report on the investigation. Aides of Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also conducting an investigation into how the murder weapon reached Ögün Samast, the youth who shot Dink.

The fourth hearing in the Dink murder trial is due to be held before an Istanbul court of assizes on 25 February. In all, 19 persons - eight of whom are currently detained - are accused of contributing in one degree or another to Dink’s murder.

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