RWB: Police negligence and nationalist tensions at centre of probe

Reporters without borders (press release), France
March 8 2007

Police negligence and nationalist tensions at centre of probe in
Hrant Dink’s murder

The Turkish government and authorities must do everything possible to
shed light on the 19 January murder of Hrant Dink, the editor of the
Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, and bring all those responsible to
trial, Reporters Without Borders reiterated today following the
emergence of new evidence of police negligence in the case.

`This murder must not remain unpunished,’ the press freedom
organisation said. `Justice must be done. We continue to be concerned
about the constant threats to Agos. We hope the proposal to amend
article 301 on Turkish identity will be carried out as soon as
possible and that there will be serious political debate about the
question of press freedom.’

The daily newspaper Milliyet published an article on 27 February
about the negligence of the Istanbul police as regards Dink’s
protection. It included a list of sites for protection which the
Istanbul security directorate drew up after the French parliament
passed a law last year making denial of the Armenian genocide a
crime. Although Agos was 12th on the list, the police had felt there
was no need to protect Dink. The day after his murder, the prefect of
the Istanbul police even said at a news conference that he had not
requested police protection.

Dink’s wife Rakel, his daughters Sera and Delal and his son Arat went
to testify at the Istanbul prosecutor’s office on 13 February. One of
the family’s lawyers, Bahri Beln, said they filed a complaint against
those who did not take the necessary measures to protect him.

A total of 28 people have been detained in several cities of Turkey
since Dink’s murder and eight of them have been placed in custody,
but there are still many murky aspects to the case. Yasil Hayal, the
murder’s alleged instigator, retracted his statement after learning
that Erhan Tuncel, an ultra-nationalist and student at the Karadeniz
(Black Sea) University, was a police informer.

During his second interrogation in Kandira prison in the city of
Kocaeli, Hayal told a prosecutor that the aim of his first statement
was to protect Tuncel, who was, he said, the `real instigator.’
Tuncel had informed the police several times a year ago of a plan to
murder Dink.

As the investigation continues, Agos continues to be the target of
threats. Ten people were arrested in Kayseri, in the centre of the
country, on 12 February for sending email messages threatening the
newspaper. Computer material was seized but the suspects were

The debate about article 301 continues to grow in the run-up to
parliamentary elections in November and the presidential election in
May. After a meeting of senior representatives of the ruling Justice
and Development Party (AKP), its deputy president, Faruk Celik, said:
`We want this matter finished with once and for all. But the article
will not be abolished. It will be amended or maintained as it is.’

At Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request to `get article 301
out of the news,’ members of his government and party met on 19
February to discuss a possible amendment, but failed to come up with
any concrete proposal. Foreign minister Abdullah Gül has come out in
favour of amending article 301, which, if left as it is, could
threaten Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union. But the nature
of the possible amendment is still not known. Various proposals by
human rights groups that are part of the Common Platform on Human
Rights (IHOP) and by the Association of Turkish Journalists (TGC)
have not been accepted. The TGC has said it favours replacing the
expression `Turkish identity’ in the article by `Turkish people’ with
the aim of shifting its applicability to matters taking place on
Turkish soil.

The shock of Dink’s murder continues to shake Turkish society while
the gulf between ultra-nationalists and pro-Armenians deepens.

Shortly after a mass in Dink’s honour at the Armenian church of St
Mary of Kumkapi, on the European side of Istanbul, on 3 March, two
youths fired shots in the air to scare the people who had gathered in
the adjoining gardens. Identified thanks to security cameras at the
entrance to the church, Volkan Karaova and Yilmaz Murat Ozalp were
arrested in possession of a revolver and blanks by Istanbul
anti-terrorist police.

The Turkish press has reported that the Istanbul prosecutor’s office
ordered that they be held for an additional two days for further
questioning. The police took Karaova into custody three months ago
after he fired at a Greek church in Istanbul’s Eminonu district


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