The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court decided to prosecute prime suspect Ogün Samast before a juvenile court. This is one of the results of Monday's hearing of the Hrant Dink murder case. The Turkish-Armenian journalist, then editor-in-chief of the Armenian Agos newspaper, was shot in front of his office in January 2007.
Amendments on the Anti-Terror Law enforced in June lifted the provision that juveniles older than 15 years of age should be prosecuted like adults.
Samast benefited from this amendment that was particularly related to children from mainly Kurdish regions who stood trial under charges of attending demonstrations. The decision was given in the beginning of the morning session. The High Criminal Court's decision was in line with the opinion of prosecutor Mustafa Çavuşoğlu. Subsequently, Samast was excluded from the hearing and taken to the Istanbul Sultanahmet Juvenile High Criminal Court.
Samast was 17 years old when he allegedly shot Hrant Dink in front of the Agos newspaper office in the middle of the day on 19 January 2007.
Dink family affronted
During the intermission after the morning session on 25 October, Dink's widow Rakel Dink criticized the decision, "The justice is put into iron chains by the laws. And the judges behave accordingly".
Hosrof Dink, brother of the slain journalist, pointed out, "We would not have been confronted with this if justice had been delivered in time. It has been four years. We remind you of your responsibilities".
One of the international observers who attended the hearing in the Beşiktaş (Istanbul) Court House was Olivier Guilbaud from the delegation of the Paris Bar Association. He commented, "We hope that the court will recognize all aspects highlighted by the decision of the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights]".
"We would appreciate the court's acceptance of the request made by the joint attorneys of the plaintiff party to merge the file tried in Trabzon [with the case file in Istanbul]. We also hope that the fact that Samast will be tried at a Juvenile Court will not prevent the disclosure of all aspects of the truth behind the murder in any way", Guilbaud said.
The case was postponed to 7 February 2011.
Summary of the 15th hearing
The plaintiff lawyers requested a site survey of the region around the scene of crime in order to confirm the conclusiveness of Samast's statement. However, the court dismissed the request reasoning that this would not yield any new results for the file.
On 10 May this year, the Dink family lawyers had demanded to access footage of the murder by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). A security camera of the nearby Akbank Branch had the referring visuals which were erased after the incident.
The lawyers had asked whether the footage had in fact been deleted and if yes by which program and if it would be possible to recover the records. TÜBİTAK has still not replied to the request so the court decided to send another letter to the research council.
No trial merger yet
The court did not change its position on merging the two cases related to the Dink murder tried in Trabzon and Istanbul as repeatedly requested by the plaintiff lawyers. The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court dismissed also the latest claim filed by the lawyers accordingly saying that "the decision of the ECHR has not been finalized yet".
The court furthermore decreed to keep defendants Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel in detention. Hayal and Tuncel stand accused of instigation to murder. Detention was warranted because of the risk of flight.
Thus, both defendants will have been detained for four years by the date of the coming hearing on 7 February.
Witnesses still not found
The court decided to send another letter to the Ankara High Criminal Court regarding a statement to be taken from Ergün Çağatay. He had mentioned that defendant Hayal had also targeted author Orhan Pamuk. The attorneys of the plaintiff party will be informed about the date Çağatay is going to give his statement.
The court had previously refrained from hearing supposed eye-witnesses Emsale Çakmakçı, Celal Yıldırm and Şahabettin Şahin and witnesses Erhan Şivil and Mehmet Ali Temelocak who sat next to Samast in the coach when he was travelling back to Trabzon after the murder. Reason for not hearing these witnesses was the difficulty to ascertain their addresses. The court is going to work on that again.
The court board decreed to have police officer Necati Ekinci interrogated by the High Criminal Court in Rize (eastern Black Sea Coast) since he had a number of telephone calls at the time with Mustafa Öztürk, former head of the so-called Alperen Organization, a far right nationalistic youth group linked to the Great Unity Party (BBP).
"Cage Action Plan" defendants not accepted as joint plaintiffs
The court dismissed the request of Admirals Kadir Sağdıç and Mehmet Fatih İlgar for co-plaintiff status due to "lack of evidence". Sağdıç and İlgar are defendants of the "Cage Action Plan" trial heard before the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court.
It was decided to forward statements previously taken in Amasya to the Istanbul Public Prosecution which is responsible for the Dink investigation. Those statements were given by former members of the clandestine Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit (JITEM) who had claimed that the decision for an action against Dink had been taken during their time on duty. (EÖ/EÜ/BT/VK)