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Turkey27 October 2008

Accused mastermind’s brother now also charged in Dink murder

Osman Hayal, the elder brother of the accused mastermind of Armenian-Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink’s murder, has been charged with “complicity” and “membership of a terrorist organisation,” becoming the 20th person to be formally indicted in connection with the fatal shooting of Dink in Istanbul on 19 January 2007.

Hayal is alleged to have accompanied the accused shooter, Ogun Samast, to Istanbul and to have assisted his escape afterwards. Hayal could get life imprisonment on the complicity charge and 15 years on the terrorism charge.

When questioned last year, Hayal repeatedly denied being in Istanbul on the day of the murder. But he was arrested in August of this year after his mobile phone records reveal that he was after all in the city on that day.

Questioned during the latest hearing on 13 October in the trial of Dink’s accused murderers before an Istanbul court, Hayal reluctantly admitted he was in Istanbul on the day of the murder as his mobile phone had “emitted a signal from the district of Umranyie” but he said he lied simply out of fear of being arrested and insisted he never left his maternal uncle’s depot on the Asian side of the city.

The police nonetheless claim to have a witness, whose identity has not been revealed, who says Hayal was at the scene of the murder - on Halaskargazi Avenue in the district of Sisli - and that he was with Samast.

The next hearing in the murder trial is scheduled for 26 January. Nearly two years have gone by since the murder but the authorities still have not shed light on the roles of all those involved.


Hrant Dink murder trial resumes, two police witnesses refuse to answer questions

(JPEG) Two police witnesses refused to answer questions during cross-examination and the court refused to reconsider a classified intelligence report about links between the Trabzon police and the presumed masterminds when the trial of Armenian-Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink’s alleged murderers resumed in Istanbul on 13 October. A witness confirmed that Dink had received threats.

Ogün Samast, the youth from the city of Trabzon who allegedly fired the shots that killed Dink, was not brought from prison to the court for this, the latest in a series of one-day hearings held every few months, because he was reportedly unwell.

Mithat Alkan, the concierge of the building where Dink lived, told the court that Dink was threatened a few months before the murder. “Two hooded men with guns rang the door,” he said. “When I opened, they introduced themselves as policemen. When I objected, asking how I could be sure, one of them asked me how many children Dink had and where they lived.” As they left, they told him to keep an eye on Dink because they would return.

Ercan Demir and Engin Dinç, two former Trabzon police intelligence officers, told the court that they gradually stopped using Erhan Tuncel, one of the accused instigators, as a police informer during the months prior to Dink’s murder in Istanbul. They claimed they cut all links with him on 23 November 2006 - eight weeks before the murder - because he was “unreliable” and “made up information in order to be paid.”

When the Dink family lawyers accused the two policemen of not attributing enough importance to the information Tuncel gave them about plots against Dink, they replied that they did what was necessary by alerting the Istanbul police and intelligence headquarters in Ankara.

The two policemen repeatedly sidestepped questions with such replies as “You can check the files” or “That was two years ago, I don’t remember” or “I cannot answer that question.” They defended themselves by saying it was hard to get information as they did not think Tuncel was reliable.

The report which the court refused to examine further was a classified one about the links between the Trabzon police and the two accused instigators, Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, which the court received on 22 April from general intelligence chief Ramazan Akyürek after it was requested by the Dink family lawyers.

The 90-page report focused on Hayal’s status as informer for the Trabzon police, his activities and how he was monitored. The police reportedly began using Tuncel as an informer on 17 November 2004 in order to control Hayal’s movements and to monitor Islamist activity in the Black Sea region.

After examining the report on his own, without lawyers being present, one of the court’s judges said it contained “assertions liable to endanger national unity and the rights of persons.” The Dink family lawyers requested that the report be reexamined in the lawyers’ presence, but the court rejected this at the end of the 13 October hearing. “We will not be able to get to the bottom of the matter if we are not allowed to see this report,” one of the lawyers said.

At the request of the lawyers, the court agreed that testimony should be heard again - this time in the lawyers’ presence - from the two policemen, Metim Gündogdu and Muhittin Zenit, who were the first to get in contact with Tuncel. The court is also now to examine certain telephone conversations between the defendants.

As well as Samast, Tuncel and Hayal, there are five other defendants who have been in prison for the past 21 months. They are Ogün Zeynel Abidin Yavuz, Ersin Yolcu, Ahmet Iskender, Tuncay Uzundal and Mustafa Öztürk. They will remain in prison until the next hearing, scheduled for 26 January.

A Trabzon court meanwhile ordered on 26 September that two police officers, Okan Simsek and Veysel Sahin, should be tried for neglecting to take steps to prevent Dink’s murder. One of the Dink family lawyers, Egin Cinmen, said: “The court has understood that it was not just an act of negligence, but an act of negligence that resulted in a murder.”

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