ANKARA (AFP)–Two Turkish policemen were Wednesday acquitted over a scandal in which security forces posed for pictures with the suspected killer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the Anatolia news agency said.
The court verdict will be a disappointment for Dink’s family who say police protected the self-confessed killer, Ogun Samast, when he was seized in the northern city of Samsun a day after Dink was shot dead in Istanbul last year.
Footage and photos leaked to the media at the time showed officers, some in uniform, posing with Samast, aged 17 at the time, as he held a Turkish flag, triggering accusations that some officials secretly approved of the murder. Eight police officers were given disciplinary sanctions at the time, but only Metin Balta, the deputy head of the terrorism department, and Ibrahim Firat, a police chief in the same office, were brought to court.
At the end of a trial which lasted a little over a year, the court in Samsun ruled that Balta was not guilty of "abusing his office by allowing acts unbefitting state officials and leading to the impression that there was sympathy" for Samast’s action, the report said. The court also acquitted Firat on the ground that there was no "solid and convincing" evidence to convict him of "violating the secrecy of the investigation" by leaking the images to the media, it added.
Dink, 52, hated by Turkish nationalists for calling the World War I massacres of Armenia’s a genocide, was gunned down on January 19, 2007, outside the offices of his Agos newspaper in central Istanbul.
Samast and 18 accomplices went on trial in Istanbul last year. The charge-sheet says police received intelligence as early as 2006 of a plot organized in the northern city of Trabzon, Samast’s hometown, to kill Dink. Two soldiers — members of the Trabzon gendarmerie intelligence department — were put on trial in January on charges of covering up intelligence about the murder plot.
They testified in court in March that they had passed on to their superiors information of a plot to kill Dink, but said no action was taken. They also accused their superiors of fabricating documen’s after the murder to create the impression they had no prior knowledge of the plot.
The trial is seen as a test of Ankara’s resolve to eliminate the "deep state" — a term used to describe security forces acting outside the law to preserve what they consider Turkey’s best interests.