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Turkey: Hrant Dink Murder Trial Closes

Five years and 25 hearings later, the trial to convict those responsible for the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, has come to a close. The gunman, 17-year-old Ogün Samast, as well as over a dozen others accused of involvement in the gunning down of Dink in Istanbul in January 2007, were caught almost immediately afterwards.

However, according to Dink's family, friends and lawyers, the case is linked to Turkey's so-called deep state structures and the real perpetrators, meaning those who masterminded the crime, have not been brought to justice.

While Samast was sentenced to 22 years in prison last year, yesterday's verdict, which ruled that three other defendants acted as individuals rather than as part of a criminal organization, was a disappointment many had seen coming. From the pre-hearing statement of the group “Hrant's Friends” to the lawyer's statement after the verdict, and throughout a procession from the Beşiktaş Court House to Agos, the newspaper Dink edited, one sentiment stood out.

Journalist Yavuz Baydar summed up that feeling.

@yavuzbaydar: Dink davasına doğru, yolda. Karar çıkacak herhalde, ama bu dava bitmeyecek.

On my way to the court. Seems like a verdict will be issued today, but this trial will not end here.

Indeed, the same sentiment was also echoed in chants and placards. Çiğdem Mater tweeted a photo:

@cigdemmater: Mahkemeye yuruyoruz: oldur diyenler yargilansin #hrantdink http://twitpic.com/85jf4s

We are walking to the court: (the chant is) indict those who ordered the murder.

Mehmet Demir also tweeted a photo from in front of the court where Hrant Dink's widow Rakel Dink was among those standing behind the banner:

@memediko: 5. Yılında, 25. duruşmasında Hrant için, adalet için Beşiktaş Adliyesindeyiz… http://twitpic.com/88bgwi

On the 5th year and 25th hearing, we are at the Beşiktaş Court House for Hrant and for justice.

Another person for who seemed to anticipate the verdict was lawyer Efkan Bolaç.

@efkanbolac: Hrant icin Beşiktaş adliyesine gelinsin ancak adalet icin Beşiktaş adliyesine gelinmesin. Bugün adalet tam tecelli etmeyecek.

Come to the court today for Hrant, but not for justice. Justice will not be fulfilled today.

The group calling themselves “Hrant's Friends” made a statement before the hearing began. The video segment above contains footage of crowds walking towards the court house and chanting several slogans. The statement at 2:19 reads:

We know how they will decide. This is the state's decision, including its security forces, gendarmerie, intelligence, judiciary, media, government, opposition, those who decided to take Hrant away from us 5 years ago will make another decision today saying this was the work of a few hoods. They will try to hide in their dark world. How can they do this? We know who they are. There is something they don't know: before we say it is over, this trial is not over.

Some attending the trial also tweeted from inside the court. Özlem Dalkıran of the Hrant Dink Foundation, for example, quoted the lawyers for the prosecution.

@OzlemDalkiran: Kamu görevlilerinin kapsamlı soruşturmaya tabi tutulmasını defalarca talep etmemize rağmen bu talebimiz karşılanmadı #HrantDink

Our continuous demands for a comprehensive investigation of public officials as part of this case have not been met.

Efkan Bolaç also tweeted a part of their statement mentioning other similar cases in Turkey:

@efkanbolac: Rahip santaro ve zirve yayıncı cinayetinde bu örgütün eylemleri arasındadır. Devlet görevlileri bu davada dosyaya eklenememistir

Priest Santaro and Zirve Publishing House murders are among the actions of this organization. Public officials have not been included in this trial's file.

Bolaç also considered that the question of whether the crime was organized or not would have an impact on the sentence of the killer.

@efkanbolac: Eğer htant dink cinayeti örgütlü halde işlenmişse bu durum agirlastirici sebep olacaktır.

If the Hrant Dink murder was perpetrated by an organized group it will mean aggravated circumstance.

@efkanbolac: davada eğer suc örgütünün varlığı kabul edilip sanıklar örgüt üyeliğinden ceza alırsa karar cocuk Mah.De yargılanan samast'i da etkileyecek

If the existence of a criminal organization is affirmed in this case and the accused are sentenced under that crime, this will affect (the shooter) Ogün Samast, who is being tried at a children's court.

With journalist Yavuz Baydar tweeting that it would be a surprise if no verdict was announced, the Friends of Hrant then announced that whatever the outcome they would organize a procession to where Dink was shot.

@hrantinarkdslri: Bir saat ara verildi. Ardindan karar aciklanacak. Karardan sonra Besiktas'tan Agos'a yuruyoruz!

An hour long break, then the verdict will be announced. After the verdict we will be walking from Beşiktaş to Agos.

There has also been online and offline mobilization for a protest-walk from Istanbul's Taksim Square to the Agos newspaper on Thursday 19 January, the 5th anniversary of Dink's murder, as columnist Hilal Kaplan tweeted.

@hilal_kaplan: Hrant Dink suikasti davasından ne karar çıkarsa çıksın, adalet çıkmayacağını biliyoruz. Perşembe günü 13′te Taksim'den Agos'a yürüyoruz.

Whatever comes out of the Hrant Dink murder trial, we know it won't be justice. We will be walking from Taksim to Agos on Friday at 13.00

Waiting for the verdict in what was reported to be a packed courtroom, Özlem Dalkıran agreed:

@OzlemDalkiran: Bekliyoruz. Verilecek karar devletin kararı olacak, bizim degil. Biz #HrantDink in gercek katillerini buluncaya kadar pesindeyiz davamızın.

We are waiting. It will be the state's verdict, not ours. We will be chasing this case until Hrant Dink's real murderers are found.

Finally the verdict was read aloud and simultaneously tweeted.

@_chiquitita_: Osman Hayal beraat. Erhan Tuncel orgut lliderliiginden beraat. #hrantdink

Both Osman Hayal and Erhan Tuncel have been acquitted on the counts of membership of criminal organization, Tuncel having been accused of being the leader.

@cigdemmater: Tutuksuz yargılananlar da terör örgütüne yardımdan beraatine

Defendants who were being tried without detention have been acquitted on the count of aiding a terrorist organization.

@cigdemmater: Salih hacisalihoglu ruhsatsız silahdan 2 ay 15 gün

Salih Hacısalihoğlu is convicted to 2 months 15 days on possession of unlicenced gun.

@cigdemmater: Ahmet İskender ruhsatsız silahdan 10 ay

Ahmet İskender is sentenced to 10 months on the possession of an unlicensed gun.

@cigdemmater: Yasin hayalin Orhan pamuğu tehditten 3ay hapsine

Yasin Hayal is sentenced to 3 months on the count of threatening Orhan Pamuk.

@cigdemmater: Yasin hayal tasarlanmış adam öldürmeye azmettirmekten agirlastirilmis muebbetine

Yasin Hayal is sentenced to life sentence in solitary confinement with no possiblity of parole on the count of soliciting voluntary manslaughter.

@cigdemmater: Erhan Tuncel Mcdonakdsa dahilinden 10 yıl altı ay hapsine

Erhan Tuncel is sentenced to 10 years and 6 months on being involved in the bombing of the McDonald's in Trabzon.

Journalist Şirin Payzin offered their own interpretation of the verdict:

@siring: Örgüt yok demekle aslında sanık avukatlarının savunmaları kabul edilmiş oldu. Yani cinayeti bu isimler kendi kafalarına göre işlediler.

By denying the existence of organized crime, in a way the defense of the accused was affirmed. So it is as if these people committed the murder out of their own whim.

A press statement outside of the court from the Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin immediately followed.

Five years have passed since the murder. (His son) Arat had said they are making fun of us. They've saved the best for last, and we learned that today. It appears Hrant Dink was killed not by planned action but by a few hoodlums. Apparently there is no organization here. We did not expect this much, truly. What does this verdict mean? It means a deep tradition is not broken, and it is not allowed to be broken. This is the state's tradition of political murders, excluding its minorities and making enemies out of them – today's verdict affirms this tradition once again. Those who are extremely disturbed by the state becoming synonymous with adjectives such as the bomber of its own people, the perpetrator of massacres, arsonists, did not make any effort to get rid of these adjectives and turned down the opportunity. This trial was a chance to confront a history full of blood and pain, to cleanse, to say “never again” to murders like this, to democratize, but they did not use this chance. Those who were the “others” and the targets of the state, meaning the politicians and the ruling government of today, seem to have forged an alliance with the tradition that used to marginalize them. But they should know that unless the state is transformed, this alliance is temporary. [...] Today, here, this verdict has closed the first phase where the murderers were tried, but this trial is not over. This is a farce, and for us this trial is only starting now. In this process of trying assassins a torch has been held to the darkness that has created killers out of babies. And the real culprits that had been trying to hide in that darkness have emerged. That is why this trial is only beginning now. There are many ways we can go and many areas we can use. We will use all of them with great determination, until the darkness is questioned, the culprits are convicted and we decide this trial has ended.

The crowd then started walking to Agos.

Hrant icin, adalet icin! #hrantdink http://pic.twitter.com/IO9sSZOD

For Hrant, For justice.

Meanwhile, journalist Hanım Büşra Erdal summed up the outcome of the trial.

@busra_erdal: dink cinayetinde sadece yasin hayal ve ogün samast tutuklu kaldı. erhan tuncel tekirdağ cezaevinden tahliye ediliyor #hrantdink

Only Yasin Hayal and Ogün Samast are now in prison in the Dink murder case. Erhan Tuncel has been released from the Tekirdağ Prison, where he was during his trial for the past 5 years.

As of the evening of 17 January, the first reaction from the government side was from Ertuğrul Günay, Minister of Culture and Tourism. According to various news sources, Günay called the verdict “grave,” believing that it will now go to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The verdict, as well as the five-year long judicial process, will also likely remain on Turkey's agenda, but for now all eyes are on a march to mark the fifth anniversary of Dink's murder to be held on Thursday 19th January.

Attendance, which has been significant in the past, is likely to be an indicator of public support for any continuation of the case.

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