Turkey - Disappointing court decisions in Hrant Dink murder trial

    MONTREAL, Feb. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders shares the
disappointment expressed by the lawyers representing the family of murdered
newspaper editor Hrant Dink after the fourth hearing on 25 February in the
trial of his alleged murderers before an Istanbul court of assizes.
    The court rejected most of their requests, including their proposal that
the trial should be combined with two cases under way in the northeastern
cities of Trabzon and Samsun in which members of the security forces are being
prosecuted on charges "abuse of authority" and "tampering with evidence" in
connection with Dink's murder in Istanbul in January 2007.
    "Like the Dink family lawyers, we think the refusal to combine these
three cases will make it harder to understand the motives of Dink's
murderers," Reporters Without Borders said. "And the links between the various
security forces and their informers, from Trabzon to Istanbul, will be harder
to prove."
    The press freedom organisation added: "The Turkish judicial authorities
are not doing everything possible to ensure that all the aspects of this
murder are clarified and that all those responsible are identified. We regret
this, and we repeat that this trial is vital for Turkey. The country must
demonstrate that its judicial system is capable of acting in an independent
    Two Trabzon gendarmes, Veysel Sahin and Okan Simsek, are accused of
failing to take the necessary measures to prevent the Dink murder, while two
Samsun police officers, Metin Balta and Ibrahim Firat, are accused of allowing
the alleged gunmen, Ogun Samast, out of his cell to pose for photos, and of
distributing the photos to the news media.
    The court similarly rejected the Dink family lawyers' request that the
governor of Istanbul be asked to identify the two intelligence officers who
gave Dink a warning in 2004 in connection with an article suggesting that
Sabiha Gokçen, one of the adopted children of the Turkish republic's founder,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was of Armenian origin, like Dink himself.
    Finally, the court also ruled that four of the 19 defendants - including
Yasar Cihan and Halis Egemen of the ultra-nationalist and Islamist Buyuk
Birlik Partisi (Great Unity Party), who are facing possible 10-year jail terms
- are not required to attend the next few hearings. Fethiye Cetin, one of the
Dink family lawyers, said this was premature, especially as some of the
defendants, such as Coskun Igci, Irfan Vzkan and Erbil Susaman, have not yet
    The trial will continue to held behind closed doors as the court decided
it will carry on treating Samast as if he was a minor at the time of the
shooting, as indicated by his birth certificate, rather than be guided by a
forensic medical opinion that, on the basis of his physical development, he
had probably turned 18. The next hearing has been set for 28 April.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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