ISTANBUL (Armenian Weekly)—Well-known writer of Turkish origin Dogan Akhanli was arrested at Istanbul airport on August 10 and has been imprisoned at the Metris prison facility since then. He was in Turkey to visit his ailing father in Turkey. Akhanli had become a German citizens in 2001. This was his very first visit to Turkey since his escape in 1991.
Turkish prosecutors accuse Akhanli of having participated, in October 1989, in an armed robbery of a currency exchange store. The robbery resulted in the death of a person. Akhanli rejects the accusations and states that he has no knowledge of or connection to the robbery. His defense attorneys, Haydar Erol in Istanbul and Ilias Uyar in Cologne also dismiss the evidence presented by the Turkish prosecution as entirely unsubstantiated.
In fact, the first witness to implicate Akhanli in 1992 was tortured (for which medical evidence has been presented) and, therefore the witness statements cannot be used in a court of law. Police presented another witness, in this case the son of the person who died in the robbery, with photos that exclusively showed Akhanli and then pressured him to identify Akhanli. The witness agreed with the police and suggested that Akhanli was one of the three participants in the robbery and confirmed that he could identify him in person. In a proper court of law a person must be presented with photos of several potential suspects to be able to identify a person.
Akhanli’s friends and colleagues issued a statement noting that due process would require that the accused be set free because of the lack of evidence. However, the prosecutor responsible for this case decided after a mere 20 minutes that the case would go forward. A first official complaint on August 20, 2010 was rejected, followed by Akhanli’s transfer out of Istanbul to Tekirdag (on the Marmara coast). This transfer makes visits from his attorneys, German consular officials and his relatives difficult or impossible.
The statement further noted, “Akhanli was aware of vague accusations against him. Prior to his departure he had arranged for a defense team and alerted friends in case of his arrest. As his friends, colleagues and engaged citizens, we accept that the Turkish authorities have the right to investigate the armed robbery. But we also expect that the justice system examine the evidence very carefully and we expect the immediate release of the accused.”
Dogan Akhanli went underground following the military coup in 1980. From 1985-1987 held in a military facility in Istanbul, he was tortured. In 1991, he escaped to Germany where he was accepted as a political refugee. Turkey removed all his citizenship rights following his escape. Since the mid-90s he lives as a writer in the city of Cologne. In his writings he addresses topics ranging from memorializing genocides of the 20th century, intercultural dialogue, and reconciliation. Akhanli has received numerous awards and prizes. He is engaged in pursuing information related to Hrant Dink’s assassination.
The Armenian Weekly thanks Prof. Vera Eccarius-Kelly for translating from German the press release based on which this article was written.