ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)—A juvenile court in Istanbul began hearing a case Monday against the alleged killer of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink as evidence emerged in the main case of a potential new witness to the 2007 slaying.
The hearing at the 14th Minors Court for Serious Crimes was the first since the trial against alleged triggerman Ogün Samast was transferred from an adult to juvenile court.
A wiretapped conversation revealed during a recent hearing into the Ergenekon coup plot case meanwhile indicated that there were two people next to Samast on the day of Dink’s assassination.
This witness was not listed in the scope of the Dink murder trial. It has been claimed that Samast was not alone on the day of the killing, but that has never been confirmed.
The Istanbul court decided Monday that Dink’s family members – his wife, Rakel, daughters Delal and Sera, son Arat and brothers Hosrof and Yervant Dink – as well as the newspaper he edited, weekly Agos, and Birgün Publishing were also parties to the case, each represented by their lawyers. The defendant’s lawyer argued that the “legal persons” and people with no blood relation to Dink should not have been accepted as parties to the case.
After Celal Ünal, the chair of the juvenile court board, read a short summary of the formal criminal charge, the defendant was asked whether he had anything to say. “I made my defense four years ago. I repeat the same [defense],” Samast said.
Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin told a group of journalists that his relatives would no longer be following the case in the courts. “The moves and course [of judgment] have been far from what justice demands,” Çetin said, adding that the case has caused a lot of suffering and inflamed public opinion.
Possible new witness
The claim of a possible new witness arose during the last hearing of the second Ergenekon case on Feb. 25. While suspect retired Lt. Col. Mustafa Dönmez was being cross-examined, he was asked about a phone call in the indictment. Dönmez allegedly made a phone call to Emin Gürses from Eskişehir on the Dink murder as well as other criminal offenses in the indictment. “They are conversations we made on the matters of the country on the spur of the moment,” the retired officer said.
Prosecutor Aykut Cenciz Engin reportedly arrived at the courthouse in the early morning hours to do some inspections within the building. The press has been taken within the courtroom only a while after the case had started. Samast has reportedly asked judges for the number of the case observers to be decreased, or for the hearing to be closed to public, which has been strictly objected by Dink family.
The court board has reportedly referred to Samast as SSÇ, which is the acronym for “minor dragged to crime” during the hearing.
The Istanbul court, where main suspect Ogün Samast had been on trial for Dink’s murder together with another 20 suspects including Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, ruled Oct. 25 that it did not have jurisdiction to prosecute Samast because he was under the age of 18 at the time of the murder. The unanimous decision was made under a recently changed on minors’ legal status in adult courts. The change to what is commonly known as the “stone-throwing children’s law” was meant to ease the plight of juveniles charged under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws.