Armenian journalist assassinated in Turkey

Financial Mirror, Cyprus
Jan 19 2007

Armenian journalist assassinated in Turkey

19/01/2007

Hrant Dink, the editor of Turkey’s main Armenian-language newspaper
Agos who had questioned Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide, was
shot dead in Istanbul Friday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the assassination an
attack against `Turkey’s stability.’

Turkish stocks fell after the shooting was reported by as much as 1%
in Istanbul following the attack after rising 1.4% earlier, Bloomberg
reported, fearing new civil strife from nationalist elements.

Dink, one of the most prominent ethnic Armenians in Turkey, received
a sixth-month suspended jail term from a Turkish court in July for
`insulting Turkishness’ in a 2004 article he wrote about the killing
of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks at the time of
World War I. Turkey denies that a genocide took place.

`This attack against Hrant Dink is against the Turkish nation’s
togetherness and peace,’ Erdogan said. `A bullet was fired at freedom
of thought and democratic life.’

According to Sabah, Erdogan said `the chief editor of Agos newspaper
Hrant Dink has become an innocent victim of an obnoxious murder.
Shady forces have once more chosen our country to reach their ill
desires. The bullets that shot Hrant Dink today are in fact bullets
fired for the unity of our nation. I have already commissioned the
minister of justice as well as the minister of internal affairs to
capture the assassin.
We have lived on these lands together for many centuries. No ill plot
can ruin Turley’s unity. I believe Turkish and Armenian citizens have
the common sense to recover from such treachery."

The European Union has called on Turkey to halt the prosecution of
writers and journalists for expressing their opinion or face a halt
to its membership bid.

Dink was killed by an unidentified gunman outside his office in
Istanbul’s Sisli district, a spokeswoman for Agos said in a telephone
interview with Bloomberg.

`Whatever the motive, this is a despicable act,’ said Ilter Turkmen,
a former Turkish foreign minister, in a telephone interview. `The
government needs to find the assailant immediately.’

Just before his assassination, Dink had complained of death threats
he was receiving from nationalists.

`My computer is laden with lines filled with angry threats,’ Dink
wrote in a January 10 article for Agos. He said he found one letter
`extremely worrying’ and said police took no action after he
complained.

Police have arrested two people in connection with the murder, NTV
television reported. Police believe a male aged 18 or 19 may have
killed Dink, CNN Turk television reported citing unidentified police
officials.

Akin Birdal, the former head of Turkey’s Human Rights Association who
was shot six times in 1998 in his office by a suspected nationalist,
called the shooting `an organized attempt by those who want to
destroy Turkey’s European Union aspirations to cast Turkey into
darkness.’

Police in riot gear surrounded Dink’s office in downtown Istanbul.
Forensic teams were combing the pavement outside for clues to the
murder.

Dink, born in Malatya, southeast Turkey in 1954, was a member of
Turkey’s small ethnic Armenian community, and a Turkish citizen. He
was editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish and Armenian weekly Agos
().
Dink had been convicted of insulting Turkishness — under the
controversial article 301 of Turkey’s penal code — and handed a
six-month suspended sentence in 2005. The case was prompted by an
article he wrote in which he referred to an Armenian nationalist idea
of ethnic purity.

The European Union has repeatedly called on Ankara to change the law
and the government has promised to revise it.
Of his conviction, Dink had told Reuters: "I may be paying the price
for this, but Turkish democracy will gain from it, I hope."
Armenians have long campaigned for recognition of the genocide by
Ottoman Turks during World War One, but Dink opposed the French
parliament’s passing of a law banning denial of the Armenian
genocide. He said he would even be ready to go to prison in France in
defence of free speech.

www.agos.com.tr

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