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Turkey1 April 2009

Ergenekon conspirators could have been behind journalist Hrant Dink’s murder

Reporters Without Borders supports a request which the family and lawyers of slain Turkish- Armenian journalist Hrant Dink have addressed to an Istanbul court asking it to seriously consider the possibility that the clandestine ultranationalist group Ergenekon was involved in Dink’s January 2007 murder. The court is trying a group of men accused of the murder and is due to hold its next hearing on 20 April.

“The court must examine the links that may have existed between certain Ergenekon members and Dink’s murderers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If the court takes account of this evidence, the trial could enter a new phase that could lead to an impartial verdict in the weeks ahead.”

The Dink family was told about the possible links by a friend of Dink’s, Ali Bayramoglu, a reporter with Yeni Safak, a daily newspaper that supports Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Bayramoglu first began suspecting Ergenekon’s involvement a few days after Dink’s murder.

Ögün Samast, the youth who allegedly fired the shots that killed Dink, Yasin Hayal, the accused mastermind, and Erbil Susaman, another of the defendants, were all allegedly in physical and telephone contract with the Ergenekon network. They are believed to have been in contact with Mustafa Öztürk, who at the time was the head of the far-right group Foyer Alperen, and with Veli Küçük, one of those who have been charged and detained for alleged participation in the Ergenekon conspiracy.

The Dink family’s lawyers have given this information to the Istanbul court handling the Dink murder trial and to the Istanbul court handling the Ergenekon case.

The editor of the newspaper Agos, Dink was gunned down outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. The trial of his alleged killers began in July 2007.

An alleged clandestine network with links to the military and security forces and inspired by the secular convictions of the Turkish republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Ergenekon is accused of plotting against the AKP government. The trial of 86 alleged participants - 41 of whom are being held in Silivri prison, west of Istanbul - began last October.

Turkey was ranked 103rd out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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