TURKEY ON TRIAL
July 3 2007
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesMonday marked the start of the murder
trial of Hrant Dink, the editor of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper who
was shot in broad daylight outside his Istanbul office in January.
Dink’s writings on the Armenian genocide had made him a target for both
the Turkish government and ultra-nationalist groups. His assassination
by an angry 17-year-old six months ago sparked something remarkable
in the Turkish public: Thousands gathered to express solidarity with
the Armenian minority and outrage against restrictions on free speech
and growing ultra-nationalist sentiment.
And for a fleeting second, the government seemed dedicated to real
reform and perhaps even the eventual abolishment of Article 301,
which was used to try to silence Dink and other famed writers such
as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak for allegedly "insulting Turkishness."
But when it finally comes time for justice to be served for Dink,
things get messy. The trial, which will take place behind closed
doors since the main defendant is a minor, is already attracting
heavy scrutiny. Human Rights Watch warned recently that evidence
presented at the trial may raise questions about possible collusion
or negligence on the part of security forces. The real test for the
Turkish judiciary will be if it can adequately prosecute all those
involved-even if this means lifting the huge rock off some dirty
internal dealings. In an article in the New York Times, Fethiye Cetin,
the Dink family’s lawyer, expressed his concern:
The gang does not consist of these suspects only," Ms. Cetin said
of the 18 defendants, according to the news agency. "It is far more
planned and organized. There is almost an intentional misconduct of
the gendarmerie and police in this incident."
Ensuring that all those involved in Dink’s murder are exposed and
punished is essential not just for his family, but for Turkey as
a country. I’m pretty sure the folks in Brussels will be following
this case closely. After all, the last thing Turkey needs is another
excuse for Europe to slam the door shut on Turkish membership.