Economist: Justice In Turkey: Not For Some


The Economist
Jan 19 2012

His supporters protest over the verdict in the Hrant Dink murder trial

..THEY never expected real justice. But when an Istanbul court gave
its verdict this week at the end of a controversial trial for the
2007 murder of Hrant Dink, an Armenian newspaper editor, his family
and lawyers were still shocked. The judge acquitted all 19 defendants
on charges of belonging to an “armed terrorist organisation”. Just
one received a life sentence for conspiring to murder Mr Dink, who
was gunned down in broad daylight outside the offices of AGOS, an
Armenian weekly. Another suspect who had worked as an informant for
the intelligence services was cleared, only to be sentenced instead to
over ten years in jail for the 2004 bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant
in Trabzon.

Fethiye Cetin, a lawyer and close family friend, described the trial as
a “comedy from start to finish.” “But they reserved the biggest joke
for last,” she added, as she stood outside the courthouse alongside
Mr Dink’s stony-faced widow, Rakel.

Mr Dink, who deconstructed myths around the 1915 massacres of some
1.5m Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, ran afoul of the authorities when
he called the episode genocide. He was slapped with a docket of court
cases accusing him of “insulting the Turkish identity”. Another crime
was to have exposed the Armenian roots of Ataturk’s adopted daughter
and Turkey’s first female pilot, Sabiha Gokcen. Mr Dink wrote several
prescient columns predicting his own tragic end after the authorities
had warned him to keep in line.

The murder trial was seen as a test of the ruling Justice and
Development (AK) Party’s commitment to the rule of law. For Turkey’s
60,000 ethnic Armenians, justice for Mr Dink might have salved the
wounds of the past. “This verdict sends a clear message that Armenians
are fair game,” said an Armenian businessman. Turkey’s prime minister
noted that the outcome had “disturbed the public’s conscience” and
said the appeals process was not yet exhausted.

Even Turkey’s allies worry about its legal system. In a report
citing Mr Dink’s case, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s
human-rights commissioner, rebuked Turkish judges and prosecutors for
“giving precedence to the protection of the state over the protection
of human rights.” He criticised lengthy pre-trial detention periods
of up to ten years. A former chief of staff, Ilker Basbug, recently
joined several other generals in pre-trial detention.

Sadullah Ergin, the justice minister, has announced reforms to reduce
sentences for supposed terror crimes-such as praising the imprisoned
Kurdish rebel chief, Abdullah Ocalan-and to raise the bar for evidence
to detain suspects. These are welcome, if modest, steps. But they
are too late for the scores of journalists, hundreds of students and
thousands of Kurdish politicians and protesters still behind bars.

from the print edition | Europe

From: Baghdasarian

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