'Dink murder may be linked to Umraniye gang'

A lawyer for slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's family said yesterday that the killing could be linked with a shadowy group uncovered when the police found a cache of hand grenades and explosives during a raid on a house in the Umraniye distri

'Dink murder may be linked to Umraniye gang'

A lawyer for slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's family said yesterday that the killing could be linked with a shadowy group uncovered when the police found a cache of hand grenades and explosives during a raid on a house in the Ümraniye district of İstanbul in June.

Lawyer Fethiye Çetin says much evidence linked to the Hrant Dink murder have disappeared.

Fethiye Çetin, speaking to reporters at a press conference ahead of the first hearing of a trial on Dink's killing, said retired noncommissioned officer Oktay Y., a key suspect arrested after discovery of 27 hand grenades and TNT explosives in Ümraniye, was a co-plaintiff in past court cases against Dink. Dink had faced charges of "insulting Turkishness" for his comments on Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Dink, who called for reconciliation, was a hated figure for radical nationalists.

Çetin also said much evidence linked to the Jan. 19 killing, including video records recorded by security cameras in banks near the crime scene, had disappeared.

The Ümraniye incident is believed to be linked with last year's attack on the Council of State as well as a series of bomb attacks on secularist Cumhuriyet daily. Retired Capt. Muzaffer Tekin, who has also been arrested in connection with Ümraniye incident, was a chief suspect in the Council of State attack, in which a judge was killed by a gunman who said he opposed a decision of the court on teachers' rights to wear a headscarf outside their school.

Journalist and columnist Ali Bayramoğlu, also attending the press conference, said the Dink murder was connected with other shadowy incidents such as the Council of State attack and the murder of three Christian missionaries in the eastern province of Malatya earlier this year.

Trial starts on July 2

The 18 suspects charged with involvement in the murder of Dink, who was the editor in chief of the bilingual Agos weekly, will be standing trial starting Monday.

Dink was gunned down in broad daylight outside the İstanbul office of Agos in January of this year. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets on the day of his funeral, bearing aloft banners reading "We are all Hrant, We are all Armenian" in protest of his assassination.

The 18 suspects, including Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, for whom the prosecutor demands life imprisonment, will be appearing before justice for the first time at the 14th High Criminal Court of İstanbul.

Prominent figures from Turkey's intellectual community from academics and human rights groups representatives, to journalists and authors will be following Monday's trial.

The alleged trigger man, teenager O.S., who faces various charges including "murder with premeditation" and "membership of a terrorist organization," quickly confessed, but the net grew much wider.

Ultranationalists Tuncel, a university student, and Hayal, who served time for the 2004 bombing of a McDonald's, are charged with planning the crime and membership of a terrorist group. But the slate of defendants reaches up into the political ranks, including Yaşar Cihan, chairman of a local branch of the ultranationalist Grand Unity Party (BBP), who is accused of giving money to Hayal after the shooting.

Due to the prime suspect of the assassination, O.S., being younger than 18, the trial will be a closed hearing with only the suspects, suspects' lawyers and lawyers of the plaintiff side being allowed inside the court room.

Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel-laureate author, who is also listed as a victim in the indictment for having been publicly threatened with death by Hayal, will not appear in the courtroom on Monday as he is currently abroad. Pamuk attracted the anger of ultranationalists when he said during an interview with a foreign newspaper last year that "1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in this land."

Security will be heightened at the courthouse before the trial, which is likely to be followed by a large number of individuals both from Turkey and abroad.

From the indictment

The indictment, drawn up by prosecutors Selim Berna Altay and Fikret Seçen, demands life imprisonment for Tuncel on charges of inciting Hrant Dink's murder. The indictment seeks additional jail time from 22-and-a-half to 48 years on charges of leading an armed terrorist organization, manufacturing explosive materials, detonating explosive material, damaging property and causing the injury of six others.

Tuncel had earlier been prosecuted for placing a bomb in a fast-food restaurant in the northern province of Trabzon.

The indictment also demands a lifetime sentence for Hayal, for inciting the murder of Hrant Dink. An additional jail term of between 18 and 30 years on account of being a leader of an armed terrorist organization, threatening Ferit Orhan Pamuk and carrying a gun without a license is also being sought.

The indictment demands from 18 years to 24 years for O.S., the alleged hit man, on charges of premeditated murder. O.S. is also facing an additional jail term of eight-and-a-half to 18 years on charges of membership of a terrorist organization and carrying a gun without a license.

Suspects Mustafa Öztürk, Tuncay Uzundal, Zeynel Abidin Yavuz, Ahmet İskender and Ersin Yolcu face from 22-and-a-half to 35 years on charges of aiding the murder of Hrant Dink, and membership of a terrorist organization. Defendants Cihan and Halis Egemen are facing from seven-and-a-half to 15 years on charges of aiding a terrorist organization.

The indictment accuses Salih Hacısalihoğlu, Alper Esirgemez, İrfan Özkan, Osman Alpay, Erbil Susaman, Numan Şişman, Şenol Akduman and Veysel Toprak of having aided a terrorist organization, carrying guns without a license and concealing a crime, and demands from seven-and-a-half to 16 years in prison.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Temmuz 2007, 11:13