ISTANBUL (BIA)–Ultra-nationalist spectators attacked defendants–their lawyers–and observers during the court hearing of bilingual Armenian-Turkish Agos newspaper editor Hrant Dink–the paper’s editor-in-chief Sarkis Seropyan–and columnist Aydin Engin at the Istanbul 2nd Court of First Instance.
Dink–Engin and their lawyers Fethiye Cetin and Ergin Cinmen’said that tensions in Tuesday’s hearing–where the defendants are on trial for "attempting to influence the judiciary," started when they turned up in front of Istanbul’s Sisli justice hall.
The group arrived at the court building to find its entrance blocked by angry nationalists shouting "get the hell out of this country" and physically threatening them.
"We had to enter the court building surrounded by a police cordon," Cetin explained.
Dink added–"Thankfully the police officers did everything to get us into the court building safely. They took us up to the court room in a special elevator."
The defendants and their lawyers were then verbally harassed and had to dodge physical assaults in the corridor before they entered the court room itself. During the hearing–coins and pencils were thrown at them as a group of observers believed to be led by nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz shouted insults.
Nationalist "Jurists Union" lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz–Civilian Society Organizations Union of Turkey (TSTKB) member Ramazan Kirkik–retired general Veli Kucuk–and Independent Turkish Orthodox Patriarchy spokesman Sevgi Erenerol were among those at the hearing demanding to be accepted as official complainants against the defendants.
Agreeing with prosecutor Mustafa Dag’s views–the court decided to reject three separate appeals by the nationalists to be accepted as complainants on grounds that they were "not directly affected by the alleged offense" while judge Yalcin Hayret issued a warning to Kerincsiz and those around him for repeatedly interfering in the case.
Kerincsiz claimed the judge himself had "lost his objectivity" and asked for his removal on the grounds that he was preventing the intervention of complainants. Kerincsiz’s requests for Hayret’s removal were rejected.
The verbal and physical assaults endured by the defendants and their lawyers were so intense that they were noted in the court’s records and according to Cetin–the judge almost called the police into the courtroom.
When the hearing came to an end a group gathered downstairs and attacked the defendants–lawyers–and observers. Two people were hit and the defendants could only leave the building an hour later under police escort.
Following Tuesday’s hearing the trial was adjourned to July 4.
Hrant Dink is on trial in this case for his article titled "Is democracy going to be established with this penal clause?" while Aydin Engin is charged for his article "One should touch the justice system." Both defendants are charged under Turkish Penal Code article 288 for attempting to influence fair justice.
Dink’s son–Arad Dink also went on trial Tuesday.
Dink–Engin–and Arad Dink refuted the charges brought against them and maintained they had committed no offense.
Dink: I have been made a deliberate target
Aside from defending themselves to the court–Dink and his co-defendants were forced to defend themselves to the intervening groups and nationalists that turned up at the hearing.
"The marginal nationalists are clearly trying to make such cases popular and are trying to produce a nationalist policy" Dink said after the hearing. "We should not fall into this trap."
Dink added–"In all of the cases launched against me up till this day–I have not asked any support from inside or abroad–from the press or politicians–because this would mean falling into the trap of the marginal nationalists."
"I have been deliberately made a target. And they want to use this target over and over. By giving the impression that I have committed a crime that I have not–the impression that I have insulted–they want to isolate me in front of the Turkish society. At least those who know how to read and who understand are standing up against this."
Aydin Engin said–meanwhile–that justice itself was being lynched.
"A group led by Kerincsiz and his friends have attempted to lynch justice" he said. "And in a big way they have succeeded."
He added–"I have seen many trials but throwing coins and pencils at us and the defense lawyers by those who managed to enter the court room as complainants is something I have seen for the first time."
Engin argued that the conditions of a "fair trial" no longer existed in the case noting–"we ourselves are being put on trial for influencing a fair trial but in reality today the conditions of a fair trial have been eliminated."
Defense Lawyer Cetin agreed–explained that the case of Dink and his co-defenders was launched based on allegations of influencing justice.
"What has taken place today and what is being done in other trials is influencing justice itself," she added.
"They are creating such an atmosphere that one cannot talk about a fair trial. They are putting pressure on the defendants–the defense–the judge–and prosecutor. During the hearing they insulted the prosecutor," she said.
Cetin continued–"The pressure is directed at the court. When [the nationalists] wanted to be accepted as complainants they said the Turkish nation is a complainant and we are watching."
Defense Lawyer Cinmen’said the incident at the end of the hearing "reflected the intolerance toward freedom of expression in Turkey."
"The number [of protestors] is small but because they are extremely fanatic–it is a mass that can show itself," he said.