ISTANBUL, Turkey—The family of slain journalist Hrant Dink is unsatisfied with a Turkish court’s decision to sentence four former public officials to life in prison for their role in the 2007 assassination.
“The operation did not end with the murder,” read a statement. “It continued with negligence, cover-ups, the destruction of evidence and misleading information.”
Dink, the famed editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was gunned down by a teenager in broad daylight on January 19, 2007. The shooter was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
A court in Istanbul on Friday convicted two former police chiefs of premeditated murder. Life sentences were also handed down to two former senior intelligence officers. Twenty-four other public officials were sentenced to prison for charges related to negligence, accessory to murder and membership in an illegal organization allegedly led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Charges were dropped for 37 other accused officials.
Dink’s family plans to appeal Friday’s rulings. They issued the following statement after the verdicts.
On 19 January 2007, Hrant Dink was heinously murdered, shot from behind with two bullets, just in front of the offices of his newspaper Agos in the heart of Istanbul.
The murder occurred at the end of a three-year period of threats and targeting by the General Command of the Armed Forces, politicians, the judiciary, the media and some so-called non-governmental organizations controlled by the state.
One week before he was killed, he left a message for all of us in his article “Why was I targeted?” and in the last speeches he gave, he explained that “This is an operation by the deepest elements of the state designed to put me in my place.” In the past 14 years, none of the events, people or relationships mentioned by Hrant Dink in his last article have been included in the investigation. And this when many of the things he witnessed or suspected were later proven with documentary evidence…
The operation did not end with the murder; it continued with negligence, cover-ups, the destruction of evidence and misleading information.
We will never be convinced by a judicial process that does not take into account this entire mechanism.
The judgement made today is a long way from the truth. It is very difficult to understand the acquittals and sentencing that are even inconsistent within the decision itself. Indeed, some decisions leave the impression that what is being punished is not evil itself, but the fact that this evil was leaked.
At this point in the judicial process, it is said that the group known as FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization], claimed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our citizens and the wounding of thousands more in a shameful operation carried out on 15 July 2016, also killed Hrant in 2007. If this is true, had an effective investigation been carried out from the very beginning—an investigation that we demanded and strived to make happen—so many of our citizens’ lives would not have been lost almost 10 years later. Therefore, do the families of these hundreds of people not deserve an explanation of why the Hrant Dink murder was not investigated in a timely fashion?
At a time when the standing of the judiciary is at rock bottom, is it possible for any court to reach a fair judgement? Such an environment is of course very comforting for those responsible for such crimes… Unfortunately, we today see a similar climate and ideology to that which dominated during the years when Hrant Dink was targeted and when he was murdered. In such an atmosphere, how can we talk about truth and justice? Today, is it possible for anyone to stand up and honestly say that Hrant Dink’s murder had nothing to do with the fact that he was Armenian? How can anyone deny the racism that has worked its way into the very veins of this mechanism?
If this trial is ended in this way, if the deep-state mechanism that has existed for years is simply brushed aside as being the work of FETÖ and no effective investigation is carried out, who will bear the responsibility for other lives that may be lost in the future? Just as the killer was a child, FETÖ and Ergenekon are also children. The mechanism itself, however, is much older. And we must not allow this mechanism to continue to take other lives.
We need an immediate call for transparency, democracy and rule of law as much as we need air, bread and water. What we hope for is a confrontation: For society to confront this crime, for perpetrators to confront their own crimes, and for institutions to learn the necessary lessons.
We, Hrant Dink’s family, together with his friends and lawyers and with the strength of those who carried his coffin on their shoulders, will never give up our legal battle or our attempts to understand and explain. Not until the entire mechanism is exposed and taken out of operation.