Skip to main content

Suspects in Dink murder acquitted of terrorism charges

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
updated 5:46 AM EST, Wed January 18, 2012
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was gunned down outside the Istanbul office of the Agos newspaper in 2007.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was gunned down outside the Istanbul office of the Agos newspaper in 2007.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some of the defendants were earlier convicted of conspiracy and murder
  • A judge cleared them all Tuesday of being members of a terrorist group
  • Hrant Dink was the editor of an Armenian-language newspaper

Istanbul (CNN) -- Nearly five years to the day after a Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor was gunned down in broad daylight, a judge acquitted all 19 defendants in his trial of charges that they were members of an "armed terrorist organization."

One defendant, Yasin Hayal, received a life sentence for conspiring in the planned killing of Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Armenian-language newspaper "Agos." Prosecutors accused Hayal of purchasing the murder weapon, a 7.65 millimeter Turkish-produced handgun. Hayal was also accused of recruiting a 17-year old soccer player named Ogun Samast to use the gun to kill Dink.

Another defendant, Erhan Tuncel, was cleared of charges in connection to the murder. Instead, he was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for the 2004 bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in the Black Sea city of Trabzon.

Attorneys for the Dink family denounced the sentences, arguing it downgraded a politically motivated assassination to the level of a common criminal murder.

"This decision was unexpected," lawyer Fethiye Cetin told journalists outside the courthouse. Standing next to Dink's widow, Rakel, Cetin called the trial a "comedy."

"The tradition of the state of political murders and the tradition of the state to make enemies of some of its citizens by classifying them as 'others,' this tradition continues," Cetin continued. "This was was an opportunity for democratization in Turkey, but they did not seize that opportunity."

Dink was gunned down on the sidewalk outside the Istanbul office of the Agos newspaper in 2007.

Surveillance cameras caught the convicted murderer, Samast, fleeing the scene wearing a white hat. The confessed killer was later sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. He received a lighter sentence because he was a minor.

At the time of the murder, Dink was defending himself in court against a number of cases accusing him of "insulting Turkish identity," for comments made about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Dink argued the killings amounted to genocide, a term the Turkish state continues to vehemently deny.

In 2010, the European Court of Human rights fined Turkey more than $100,000 for failing to "protect the life and freedom of expression" of Dink.

In interviews before his murder, Dink said he had received death threats for his outspoken opinions. Investigative journalist Nedim Sener later wrote in a book that Istanbul police were aware of threats to Dink's life.

Sener is currently in prison, facing charges of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.

"The Turkish authorities have failed to address state officials' alleged involvement in the killing of journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink," Amnesty International wrote this week. "The security services knew of the murder plot and were in communication with those accused of the murder yet nothing was done to stop it taking place... Nothing short of a full investigation into the actions of all the state institutions and officials implicated in the murder will represent justice."

After Tuesday's court ruling, Dink's family and attorneys, along with several hundred supporters, marched in protest through the streets of Istanbul in sub-zero temperatures carrying signs saying "We are all Armenian."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT