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Turkey28 January 2009

Dink trial hearing criticised as undignified

Reporters Without Borders said today it was very worried about the “undignified” trial of the alleged killers of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and called on the judge to keep order in his court.

Two of the 20 defendants, Ehran Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, exchanged blows at the trial’s eighth session in Istanbul on 26 January and the presiding judge, Ekran Canak, twice had to expel Hayal from the courtroom for shooting racist insults against Hrink and his family. Hayal’s lawyer, Fuat Turgut, also made racist remarks and Dink’s family walked out in protest.

"The conditions and content of the hearing were in total contradiction with the dignity and impartiality required for justice to be done,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The insults to Dink’s family by the defendants and their lawyers cannot be tolerated and the court must be stricter, especially with outbursts by the defence lawyers.”

Two of the defendants, Mustafa Öztürk and Zeynel Abidin Yavus, were ordered released by the court after more than two years in prison. Ogün Samast, the alleged triggerman, for the second time did not appear at the hearing for health reasons.

The presiding judge mentioned a report from prime minister Reycep Tayyip Erdogan’s office noting a serious lack of cooperation between police in Istanbul, where Dink was killed, and police in Trabzon, where the murder was planned. It added that local and national intelligence services had performed badly.

Dink, who edited the newspaper Agos, was shot dead on 19 January 2007. He had campaigned all his life for recognition of the 1915 genocide of Turkey’s Armenians and had been awarded the Henri Nannen press freedom prize. The trial of his killers began in July 2007.

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