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Turkey25 July 2008

Colonel denies involvement in Dink murder as parliamentary committee accuses security forces of negligence

Reporters Without Borders today voiced unease about delays and twists and turns in the investigation into the 2007 murder of the journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Dink as ex police chief Colonel Ali Oz denied involvement and a parliamentary committee accused the security forces of negligence in the case.

Col Oz gave, former head of the gendarmes in Trabzon, denied at a court in Bursa, south of Istanbul on 21 July claims made by two police officers during their trial on 20 March that their superiors, including Ali Oz, were aware of plans to kill Dink.

Running in parallel with the court hearing, a parliamentary sub-committee issued a report on 23 July that accused the security forces of negligence in the case.

The committee’s president, Mehmet Ocaktan, stressed that the report was independent and that its role was not to clear up the case to decide where there had been official negligence.

“We continue to feel concern about the delays and twists and turns in the investigation into the murder of Hrant Dink” said Reporters Without Borders. “The report produced by the parliamentary sub-committee confirms that police and gendarmes in Trabzon made mistakes. However they both continue to deny being at fault.

“We urge that all the investigations currently opened should be joined up so that responsibilities can be sorted out”, it said.

For the first time since the Dink murder on 19 January 2007, the former head of the gendarmes in Trabzon, Ali Oz, has been giving evidence as a witness. He denied all the statements made by Okan Simsek and Veysel Sahin, two gendarmes in Trabzon, who accused him of being told of plans to kill Hrant Dink at a meeting in summer 2006. The colonel told the judge, “I can no longer remember if this case was on the agenda”. He added that he had been informed of the journalist’s death by phone while he was travelling.

Lawyers for the Dink family questioned Oz about the fact that Okan Simsek and Veysel Sahin were aware of the plans to kill Dink. The colonel replied, “If Simsek and Sahin had such information, it was up to them to do what was necessary. They didn’t need my orders. As I have already said, I do not remember if I was informed.”

Two days afterwards the president of the parliamentary sub-committee, Mehmet Ocaktan, said, “We have concluded that there was negligence, mistakes and a lack of coordination between the gendarmerie and the police.”

Ocaktan refused to reply to journalists’ about whether it was contradictory for an investigation to be made into the Gendarmerie in Trabzon, but not into the police. “Our role is not to shed light on the murder but to look at administrative negligence. The trial is under way and we cannot comment on it,” he said.

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