In what would be his last column, printed in the Jan. 10 issue of Agos, Hrant Dink expressed his thoughts about the lawsuits filed against him, and the hundreds of threats he received as a result. I did not at first feel troubled about the investigation that was filed against me by the Sisli public prosecutor’s office with the accusation of "insulting Turkishness." This was not the first time. I had been familiar with the accusation because of a similar lawsuit that had been filed against me in Urfa. I was being tried in Urfa over the past three years for "denigrating Turkishness," for having stated in a talk I gave at a conference there in 2002 that "I was not a Turkbut from Turkey and an Armenian." And I was even unaware about how the lawsuit was proceeding. I was not at all interested. My lawyer friends in Urfa were attending the hearings in my absence. I was even quite nonchalant when I went and gave my deposition to the Sisli public prosecutor. I had complete trust in what my intentions had been and what I had written. I knew that once the prosecutor had evaluated the text as a whole and not that single sentence from my editorial–which made no sense by itself–he would easily understand that I had no intention of "denigrating Turkishness," and this comedy would come to an end. I was certain that a lawsuit would not be filed at the end of the investigation. I was sure of myself. But surprise! A lawsuit was filed. But I still did not lose my optimism. So much so that at a television show that I was on live, I told the lawyer [Kemal] Kerincsiz, who was accusing me, that "he should not get his hopes up too high because I was not going to be smacked with any sentence from this lawsuit. And that I would leave this country if I received a sentence." I was sure of myself, because I had truly had no intention–not even a single iota–of "denigrating Turkishness." Those who read the entirety of my collection of articles would understand this very clearly. As a matter of fact, the report prepared by the three faculty members from Istanbul University who had been appointed by the court as experts stated exactly that. There was no reason for me to get troubled; there would certainly be a return from the wrongful path at one stage of the proceedings or the other. So I kept asking for patience But there was no such return. The prosecutor asked for a sentence in spite of the experts’ report. The judge then sentenced me to six months in prison. When I first heard my sentence, I was bewildered My disappointment and rebellion were at their pinnacle. I had resisted for days and months saying, "Just you wait for this decision to come out, because once I am acquitted, you will all be repentant about all that you have said and written." In covering every hearing, all the newspaper articles, editorials and television programs referred to how I had said that "the blood of the Turk is poisonous." Each and every time, they were adding to my fame as "the enemy of the Turk." At the halls of the court, the fascists physically attacked me with racist curses. They bombarded me with insults on their placards. The threats kept hailing for months through phones, e-mails and letters, and kept increasing each time, reaching hundreds. And, I persevered through all this with patience awaiting the final decision that would acquit me. Once the legal decision was announced, the truth would prevail and all these people would be ashamed of what they had done. My only weapon was my sincerity. But here, the decision was out and all my hopes were crushed. From then on, I was in the most distressed situation that a person could possibly be in. The judge had made a decision in the name of the "Turkish nation" and had it legally registered that I had "denigrated Turkishness." I could have persevered through anything except this. According to my understanding, racism was the denigration by anyone of a person they lived alongside with on the basis of any difference, ethnic or religious, and there was no way this could ever be forgiven. Well, it was in this psychological state that I made the following declaration to the members of the media and friends who were at my doorstep trying to confirm "whether I would leave this country as I had indicated earlier:"I shall consult with my lawyers. I will appeal at the supreme court of appeal and will even go to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary. If I am not cleared through any one of these processes, then I shall leave my country. Because in my opinion, someone who has been sentenced with such a crime does not have the right to live alongside the citizens he has denigrated." As I voiced this opinion, I was emotional, as always. My only weapon was my sincerity. Dark Humor But it so happens that the deep force that was trying to single me out and make me an open target in the eyes of the Turkish people found something wrong with this press release of mine as well, and filed a lawsuit against me for attempting to influence the court. The entire Turkish media had printed my declaration, but what got their attention was what Agos alone had printed. And so this time around, the legally responsible parties of Agos and I were to be tried for attempting to influence the court. This must be what people call "dark humor." Who has more of a right than the accused to try to influence the judiciary? Humorously though, the accused was being tried for attempting to influence the judiciary. "In the Name of the Turkish State" I have to confess that I had more than lost my trust in the concept of "law" and the "system of justice" in Turkey. How could I have not? Hadn’t these prosecutors, these judges, been educated in the university and graduated from faculties of law? Weren’t they supposed to have the capacity to comprehend what they read? But it so happens that the judiciary in this country, as expressed without compunction by many a statesman and politician, is not independent. The judiciary does not protect the rights of the citizen, but instead the rights of the state. The judiciary is not there for the citizen, but is under the control of the state. As a matter of fact, I was absolutely sure that even though the decision in my case was said to have been reached "in the name of the Turkish nation," it was clearly a decision not made "on behalf of the Turkish nation" but rather "on behalf of the Turkish state." My lawyers were going to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals, but what could guarantee that the deep forces that had decided to put me in my place wouldn’t be influential there as well? Did the Supreme Court of Appeals always reach the right decisions? Wasn’t it the same Supreme Court of Appeals that had signed onto the unjust decision that stripped minority organizations of their properties–in spite of the chief public prosecutor’s attempts? And we appealed but what did it get us? Just like the report by the experts, the chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals stated that there was no evidence of crime and asked for my acquittal, but the Supreme Court of Appeals still found me guilty. The chief public prosecutor was just as certain about what he had read and understood as I had been about what I had written, so he objected to the decision and took the lawsuit to the General Council. But what can I say? That great force that had decided to put me in my place once and for all, and had made itself felt at every stage of my lawsuit through processes I would not even know about, was there once again behind the scenes. And thus it was declared by a majority vote at the General Council as well that I had "denigrated Turkishness." Like a Pigeon This much is crystal clear: those who tried to single me out, and render me weak and defenseless succeeded by their own measures. With the wrongful and polluted knowledge they oozed into society, they managed to make a significant segment of the population (whose numbers cannot easily be dismissed) view Hrant Dink as someone who "denigrates Turkishness." The diary and memory of my computer are filled with angry, threatening lines sent by citizens from this particular sector. (Let me note here at this juncture that one of these letters was sent from [the neighboring city of] Bursa, and I had found it rather disturbing because of the proximity of the danger it represented. I had therefore turned the threatening letter over to the Sisli prosecutor’s office, but have not gotten a response to this day.) How real or unreal are these threats? To be honest, it is of course impossible for me to know for sure. What is truly threatening and unbearable for me is the psychological torture I place myself in. "Now what are these people thinking about me?" is the question that really bugs me. It is unfortunate that I am now better known than I once was, and that I much more often feel people throwing me that glance of "Oh, look, isn’t he that Armenian guy?" And I reflexively start torturing myself. One aspect of this torture is curiosity, the other unease. One aspect is attention, the other apprehension. I am just like a pigeon Obsessed equally with what’s happening on my left, right, front, back. My head is just as mobile and just as fast enough to turn right away. And Here is the Cost for You What did foreign minister Abdullah Gl state? Justice minister Cemil iek? "Come on, why are people so worried about Article 301? Is there anyone who has actually been tried and imprisoned because of it?" As if the only cost one can pay is imprisonment… Here is a cost for you… Here is a cost… Do you know, oh ministers, what kind of a cost it is to imprison a human being into the apprehensiveness of a pigeon? Do you know? You, don’t you ever watch a pigeon? What They Call "Life or Death" What I have lived through has not been an easy process And what we have lived through as a family There were moments when I seriously thought about leaving the country and moving far away. And especially when the threats started to involve those close to me At that point I always remained helpless. That must be what they call "life or death." I could have resisted out of my own will, but I did not have the right to put the life of anyone who was close to me into danger. I could have been my own hero, but I did not have the right to be brave by placing any other person–let alone someone close to me–in danger. During such helpless times, I gathered my family, my children together, and sought refuge in them and received the greatest support from them. They trusted in me. Wherever I would go, they would go as well. If I said "let’s go," they would go. If I said "let’s stay," they would stay. To Stay and Resist O.k., but if we went, where would we go? To the Armenian Republic? How long could someone like me, who can not stand injustices, put up with the injustices there? Would not I get into even deeper trouble there? To go and live in the European countries was not at all the thing for me. After all, I am such a person that if I travel to the West for three days, I miss my country on the fourth and start writhing in boredom saying, "Let this be over so that I can go back." So what would I end up doing there? The comfort there would have gotten to me! Leaving "boiling hells" for "ready-made heavens" was not at all right for my personality make-up. We were people who volunteered to transform the hells into heavens. To stay and live in Turkey was necessary because we truly desired it and respected the thousands of friends we had there who struggled for democracy and supported us. We were going to stay and we were going to resist. If we were forced to leave one day, however… We were going to set out just as in 1915… Like our ancestors… Without knowing where we were going… Walking the roads they walked through… Feeling the ordeal, experiencing the pain… With such a reproach we were going to leave our homeland. And we would go where our feet, but not our hearts, took us. Apprehensive and Free I wish that we would never have to experience such a departure. We have too many reasons and hope not to experience it anyhow. Now I am applying to the European Court of Human Rights. How long this lawsuit will last, I do not know. What I do know and what somewhat puts me at ease is that I will be living in Turkey at least until the lawsuit is finalized. If the court decides in my favor, I will undoubtedly become very happy and it would mean that I would never have to leave my country. From my own vantage point, 2007 will probably be even a more difficult year. The trials will continue, new ones will commence. Who knows what kinds of additional injustices I will have to confront? While all this occurs, I will consider this one truth my only security: Yes, I may perceive myself in the spiritual unease of a pigeon, but I do know that in this country people do not touch pigeons. Pigeons live their lives all the way deep into the city, even amidst the human throngs. Yes, somewhat apprehensive but just as much free.