Seven defendants in a case over the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink were sentenced yesterday by an Istanbul court. Dink was murdered by Ogün Samast, an alleged ultranationalist, outside the offices of Agos, the newspaper he served as editor-in-chief. His murder sparked public outrage in Turkey, as he was thought to have been murdered because of his ethnic identity and outspoken editorials.
Dink, a Turkish Armenian, was at the forefront of reconciliation efforts between Turks and Armenians, who have been at odds over the alleged genocide of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I by Ottoman forces.
Samast and nine other defendants were on trial for masterminding and committing the murder. Samast was already sentenced but a new lawsuit was filed for sentencing of others who helped him, including Erhan Tuncel, the alleged mastermind of the murder plot.
The murder was a closed case if not for some new revelations and the insistence of Dink’s family that a larger network was involved in the murder. Ultimately, former police chiefs linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) were detained for covering up information on the murder.
FETÖ, which is also blamed for the failed military coup attempt in 2016, has also been linked to efforts to thwart a thorough investigation of the murder. Prosecutors say that the terrorist group, through a gang of prosecutors and police, looked to put the blame on Ergenekon and imprison critics of the group by linking them to it. Ergenekon was a “gang” concocted by FETÖ-linked prosecutors for sham trials of FETÖ critics jailed on false charges. A separate trial is still underway for FETÖ’s involvement in the murder.
Erhan Tuncel, who was released pending trial in earlier hearings, was sentenced to 99 years and six months in yesterday’s hearing and was sent to prison. Yasin Hayal, another defendant who allegedly served as “mentor” of Samast, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Samast received a prison term of two and a half years. Other defendants were handed down prison terms between 14 and 16 years while two were acquitted.