Istanbul–Two Turkish policemen went on trial Friday for their role in a scandal which saw security forces pose for pictures with the suspected murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
The trial in the northern city of Samsun is the first time that members of the security forces have been brought before a court over the January 19 murder, which the police are accused of failing to prevent.
The charges followed a complaint from Dink’s family that police protected the self-confessed killer, 17-year-old Ogun Samast, when he was captured in Samsun a day after Dink was shot dead in Istanbul.
Footage and photos leaked to the media at the time showed officers, some of them in uniform, posing with Samast as he held a Turkish flag, unleashing accusations that some officials may secretly approve 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, have been charged over the incident.
Balta is accused of "abusing his office by allowing acts unbefitting state officials and leading to the impression that there was sympathy for Samast’s action," Anatolia said. He could be sentenced to between six months and two years in jail if found guilty. Firat risks a prison sentence of one to five years on charges of "violating the secrecy of the investigation" by leaking the images to the media, Anatolia added.
The police are also under fire for failing to prevent the murder despite having received intelligence of a plot to kill Dink being organized in the northern city of Trabzon, the home of Samast and most of his suspected associates.
Dink, 52, a prominent member of Turkey’s tiny Armenian minority, was gunned down outside the offices of his bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, in central Istanbul. Although he campaigned for reconciliation, Turkish nationalists hated him for calling the massacres of Armenia’s under Ottoman rule during World War I genocide, a label that Turkey fiercely rejects.
Samast has admitted to shooting Dink because he was an "enemy of the Turks," according to prosecutors. He is on trial with 18 other suspects at an Istanbul court.