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Top European court fines Turkey in journalist's death

By Yesim Comert, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The European Court of Human Rights fines Turkey for failing to protect a journalist's life
  • Hrant Dink was killed in 2007
  • Dink's family says the Turkish government knew of murder threats against him

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- The European Court of Human Rights fined Turkey Tuesday for failing "to protect the life and freedom of expression" of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

Dink was the editor-in-chief of Agos, a bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper published in Istanbul. He was killed in January 2007 by a teenager who declared his ultranationalist loyalties in court. That suspect, who has been in prison awaiting trial, and 17 others are charged in connection with Dink's assassination.

According to a written statement issued by the Strasbourg-based court, Turkey is sentenced to pay 100,000 euros ($128,480) to Hrant Dink's wife and children and 5,000 euros ($6,424) to his brother. Turkey must also pay 28,595 euros ($36,738) to the applicants jointly for costs and expenses.

The court decided unanimously that Turkey failed to protect Dink's life, even though some law enforcement agencies were aware of threats against him. It also ruled that there were serious flaws in Turkey's investigation and case against law enforcement officials who did not act on the threats against Dink.

Turkey's foreign ministry issued a statement Tuesday saying it will not appeal the court's decision.

"Efforts will be made in following the requirements of the Dink decision and all measures will be taken to prevent repetition of similar breaches in the future," the statement said.

The European court also ruled that Turkey had violated the journalist's freedom of expression -- a decision that stemmed from Dink's own filing of a case with the European Court of Human Rights after he was convicted in Turkey of "denigrating Turkish identity."

In 2003 and 2004, Dink wrote a series of articles in Agos about the identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian origin, and their struggle to be recognized as victims of genocide after Turkey's forced expulsion of the Armenian population in 1915 resulted in the deaths of as many as 1 million Armenians.

In one of the articles, he wrote that "the purified blood that will replace the blood poisoned by the 'Turk' can be found in the noble vein linking Armenians to Armenia." A nationalist extremist lodged a complaint against him, according to the court's background on the case, and he was initially found guilty of the denigrating charge, although his case was still making its way through appeals courts.

The court decided that since Turkey's highest criminal court had upheld a ruling that Dink had denigrated Turkish identity shortly before his death, it made him a target for extreme nationalists and Turkey failed to protect him.

Arzu Becerik, one of the Dink family's lawyers, told CNN that all of their demands from the court to investigate failures of the authorities in the case had so far been declined. The lawyers will be renewing their complaints based on the decision of ECHR, Becerik said.

"If the government really wants, they can solve this case. Unfortunately, the reflex to protect public agents is very strong in Turkey. We just had a referendum that lifts certain immunities. This should not be symbolic. All those responsible should be be prosecuted," she said.