ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Public anger about unsolved political murders in Turkey’s past has spilled over at the ongoing trial of Hrant Dink’s alleged killers, as relatives of previous murder victims came to court to support the late journalist’s family.
Gathering at the court in Istanbul’s Besiktas district Monday, a group of families whose grievous faces testified to Turkey’s tumultuous political past and present observed the latest episode in the trial of those accused of murdering Turkish-Armenian journalist Dink in broad daylight Jan. 19, 2007.
Filiz Ali, daughter of author and journalist Sabahattin Ali, who was murdered by unknown perpetrators in 1948, said the Dink case represents an opportunity to root out the “deep forces within state organs” that have played significant roles in political assassinations.
“This case should shed light on all the secrets,” Ali said, reading a joint press statement on behalf of all supporting families. “We are all from the same family and we do not want this family to get any bigger. We see all related public bodies as being responsible for solving these unsolved murders.”
She continued, saying: “The laws have not allowed us to defend our dead ones for many years now. We have also witnessed many state officials mobilize to protect criminals and cover up their crimes.”
Ali said the families of unsolved murder victims will continue to observe the Dink case.
The families further plan to send a petition to Parliament on Feb. 11, asking that it establish a parliamentary research commission to “research organized political murders that have been committed in Turkey since 1948,” according to a story from daily Milliyet on Monday.
A group of people calling themselves “For Hrant, For Justice” joined the families and marched to the court holding banners saying, “We know the criminal” and “Face the truth.”
Monday’s trial was the 12th in the ongoing Dink murder case. A total of 25 suspects were present, including those already under arrest: Yasin Hayal, Erhan Tuncel, Ogun Samast, Ersin Yolcu and Ahmet Iskender.
Monday’s hearing resulted in even more controversy, however. After the morning session, suspects and witnesses were allowed to sit down together and some witnesses were seen talking to suspects. Before the second session started, the mistake was noticed and the witnesses left the courtroom, waiting outside until they were called in.
Witness Orhan Ozbaş admitted that he sat near Samast, who is accused of pulling the trigger. When Judge Erkan Canak asked whether they had talked before the session, Ozbas said, “[Samast] told me that he has been in prison for three years and I could be put in jail for five years too.”
Lawyer Siar Risvanoglu asked the court to make a criminal complaint against those responsible for allowing witnesses and suspects to sit side-by-side.
In another controversy, the police “forgot” to bring a secret witness to the court, the NTV news channel reported.
Ozbaş said that he met Samast online and that Samast called him on the phone a day before the murder. Ozbaş said he took his three friends with him and met Samast in Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district, where they walked around and then drove to Eyup and Gaziosmanpasa, later returning to Bayrampasa to drop off Samast.
“Samast showed us a photo and a gun and said that he would kill the man in the photo. We laughed, not believing what he said,” Ozbas said.
“A day after this incident, [Samast] called me and said he killed the man and was returning to Trabzon. I did not believe him until I saw the news on TV. I talked to my father about this and he told me not to talk to the police, which I obeyed,” said Ozbas.
Turhan Meral, another witness and a friend of Ozbas, said he was with Ozbas when he met Samast, but added that he did not know Samast beforehand. Meral refuted his previous testimony, in which he said he saw Samast had a gun and told them that he would kill a man. “I did not see any photo or gun and I did not hear him saying anything about killing anyone,” said Meral.
A written statement from Ramazan Akyurek, the chief of police in Trabzon at the time of the murder, said the telecommunication information of all police and intelligence officers cannot be delivered to court because it will cause security problems. Bahri Belen, a Dink family lawyer, said in response to this statement that according to the law, no documents or files that are related to crimes can be kept secret.
Suspect Erhan Tuncel, a former police informant in Trabzon, presented some documents to the court – including maps and notes taken from the book titled “Effective Forgiveness,” written by Judge Canak – and said he would read an 18-page defense later. Tuncel also said he was accused of being a member of an organized criminal gang because he had close relations with the political party the Great Union Party, or BBP.
Families of political murder victims who joined the hearing included Hrant Dink’s wife, Rakel Dink; Sezen Oz and Bengi Heval Oz, the wife and daughter of public prosecutor Dogan Oz, murdered in 1978; Ozge and Ozgur Mumcu, the daughter and son of journalist Ugur Mumcu, murdered in 1993; Nukhet Ipekci, the daughter of Abdi Ipekci, murdered in 1979; Zeynep Altıok, the daughter of Metin Altıok, murdered in 1993; Meryem Goktepe, the sister of journalist Metin Goktepe, murdered in 1996; and Nilgun Turkler, the daughter of labor-union leader Kemal Turkler, murdered in 1980.
More families signed the statement, which was read by Filiz Ali.
Sixty-six people have been prosecuted in relation to Hrant Dink’s murder three years ago. Forty-seven were released after giving their first testimony in court; on Tuesday, five detainees and 20 suspects will be questioned in the 12th hearing of the ongoing Dink trial. The following dates represent key events in the trial timeline:
First hearing, July 2, 2007: Out of a total 19 suspects, four are discharged, reducing the number of detainees from 12 to eight.
Second hearing, Sept. 1, 2007: The file of murder suspect, instigator and police informant Erhan Tuncel is destroyed on the grounds of “government security.”
Third and fourth hearings, Feb. 11 and Feb. 28, 2008: During a cross-examination session, chief suspect Tuncel prevents suspects Yasin Hayal, Mustafa Ozturk and Ersin Yolcu from testifying after they accuse Tuncel of instigating the murder.
Fifth hearing, April 28, 2008: Telephone records of suspect Özturk requested by the court are destroyed on the grounds that the period in which the court could use them had expired. An inquiry is launched by the court into whether detainee Hayal had been visited by Veli Kücük and Levent Temiz, suspects in the alleged Ergenekon case.
Sixth hearing, July 7, 2008: Ogun Samast, 18, is taken in as another murder suspect. Hayal’s brother in law tells the gendarmerie five to six times that he knows who murdered Dink.
Seventh hearing, Oct. 14, 2008: A 90-page report on the murder suspects is sent to the court by the police intelligence bureau president, Ramazan Akyurek. Only 16 pages of the report are read out because there was no information about the suspects on the remaining pages. Hayal’s brother is taken in as a suspect, bringing the total number of suspects to 20.
Eighth hearing, Jan. 26, 2009: Three o
f the eight detained suspects are discharged. Hayal and Tuncel engage in violent physical and verbal conflict.
Ninth hearing, April 20, 2009: A decision to keep Hayal, Tuncel, Ogün Samast, Ersin Yolcu and Ahmet Iskender is reached. Intervening lawyers ask for participants in the trial including former Istanbul Security Minister Celalettin Cerrah, police intelligence bureau president Akyurek, and former Trabzon security minister Resat Altay to be heard; this request is dismissed by the court on the grounds that it would not bring any new information to the case.
Tenth hearing, July 6, 2009: A witness says that suspect Samast was not alone during the incident. Samast denies the allegation.
Eleventh hearing, Oct. 12, 2009: The gun used in the murder is shown to the suspects. “I was going to kill a man, not to a wedding; how should I know?” Samast says. Also in reference to the gun, Hayal says, “I 100 percent support it; that gun was this gun.”