Chronology II: Hrant Dink’s Murder

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Chronology II: Hrant Dink’s MurderOn the anniversary of Hrant Dink’s murder, the murder trial is still in its beginnings, yet the investigation is deeply flawed. This updated chronology reminds the reader of the complicated connections found in the course of the investigation.

Mehmet Güc/Express İstanbul - Express21 January 2008, Monday This chronology is an updated version of a chronology of events which was written by journalist Mehmet Güc and published on the occasion of the start of the Hrant Dink murder trial on 2 July 2007. The events from July 2007 until January 2008 have been taken from a special Hrant Dink edition of the Express Magazine.

6 February 2004 The Agos newspaper publishes the account of Hripsime Gazalyan, an Armenian from Gaziantep (south-east Turkey), who says that Turkey's first woman pilot Sabiha Gökcen was an Armenian orphan who was adopted after the events of 1915.

24 February 2004 Editor-in-chief Hrant Dink is called to the Istanbul Governor's Office, where it is said that he was threatened by two people in the presence of the vice-governor.

25 February 2004 One day later, following the complaint of one Mehmet Soykan to the Sisli Public Prosecutor's Office, Hrant Dink is accused of "degrading Turkishness" (Article 301) in another of his articles.

26 February 2004 A group of people who identify themselves as members of the nationalist "hearth of ideals" (Ülkü Ocaklary) congregates in front of the Agos newspaper Office, shouting threatening slogans and holding placards, saying things such as "Be careful", "you will be held accountable" and "your hand will be broken".

2 February 2006 Together with his lawyer, Hrant Dink applies to the Sisli Public Prosecutor's Office for an investigation into a threatening letter he received from one Ahmet Demir, resident in Bursa, who said "your end has come, first we will kill your son and then you".

19 January 2007 Hrant Dink, journalist and writer, dies after he is attacked when leaving the office of his newspaper at around 3 pm. He is shot three times in his head and neck. Three empty bullet shells are found next to Dink's body. According to the autopsy report, two bullets hit Dink's head from behind. Eye witnesses say that the shooting was committed by a young managed 18-19, wearing jeans and a white beret.

20 January 2007 It is announced that the murder suspect "O.S." was arrested at a bus station in Samsun (on the Black Sea) at around 11 pm that day. Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler states that the operation is conducted by both police and gendarmerie, and that the murder weapon and the white beret were found on the suspect's person. Later it is also claimed that a Turkish flag was found on O.S.'s person. That night, O.S. is taken to the Samsun gendarmerie station, and three hours later, at around 2 am, to the Samsun police station. Towards morning, the suspect is sent to Istanbul in a special plane.

20 January 2007 It is announced that a plastic bag containing a white beret, a jeans jacket, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, all believed to belong to suspect O.S., has been found in a waiting underground carriage at the Sisli station of the Taksim-Levent line.

20 January 2007 A spokesman of the Yeni Pelitlispor football club which O.S. played for for a while, claimed that O.S. was not the type to carry out a murder but that he might have been manipulated.

20 January 2007 Muhsin Yazicioglu, general president of the Great Union Party (BBP), states that murder suspect O.S. had no relation to the party's youth branch, the Alperen Hearths, and that his party is being targeted unfairly.

21 January 2007 In his first statement at the gendarmerie station in Samsun, O.S. has claimed that he went to Istanbul and committed the murder single-handedly after reading Dink's articles on the internet, feeling offended and deciding to kill him. In his first statement in Istanbul, however, he claims that with nine other young men, he went into the mountain pastures of Trabzon and did shooting practice, and that he was chosen because of his weapon skills and ability to run fast.

21 January 2007 According to several newspapers, including Hürriyet, the bus ticket that O.S. used for his escape to Trabzon was bought by an unidentified woman.

21 January 2007 Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah announces that there is no political dimension or organisation behind the murder and that it was motivated by nationalist feelings.

21 January 2007 Retired General Kenan Evren, the leader of the 12 September 1980 military coup and the 7th President of Turkey, suggests that there must be an organisation behind the murder: "This murder is not the act of a child or his friends. There is someone in Trabzon. A 17-year-old was chosen on purpose".

22 January 2007 Istanbul Vali Muammer Güler states that it is up to the prosecution (and not the police chief) to decide whether the murder was organised. He does not add any further comments on the investigation.

22 January 2007 Abdülkadir Aksu, Minister of the Interior, states in a press release at the Istanbul Police Department: "As a nation, we are deeply saddened by the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. Our only consolation is that we have caught a considerable number of people behind the murder".

23 January 2007 A newspaper account based on police sources claims that O.S.'s father recognised his son from the television news and informed the police. Furthermore, O.S. bought his ticket in his own name and used an intercity bus with the number plate 34 JAZ 53. He was arrested in Samsun because the military informed the Samsun gendarmerie.

23 January 2007 Journalist Ertugrul Özkök writes: "After the murder, he did not throw away the two most important pieces of evidence, the gun and the white beret. Even the police is amazed. Have you asked yourself why he did not throw away the evidence? The answer is simple. He returns to Trabzon. There he will boast to his friends that he killed Hrant Dink. Most probably, his friends will not believe him and make fun of him. That is why he takes the evidence, just to convince his friends. And I am frightened of this state of mind. If it were an organisation, then the state's intelligence units, security forces, would destroy it. But how do you destroy this? A quarter or a city?"

23 January 2007 It is announced that Yasin Hayal has frequently met with a retired colonel living in Trabzon. Colonel H.M.B. has influence in a group in Trabzon and it is suggested that he has influenced Yasin Hayal in planning Dink's murder.

23 January 2007 The last sentence in O.S.'s 8-page statement to the prosecution is "I regret killing Hrant Dink". O.S. was questioned the day before after being examined by psychologists.

23 January 2007 According to Milliyet newspaper, the gendarmerie command of Pelitli district in Trabzon (where both O.S. and Yasin Hayal lived) have announce via municipality loudspeakers that nobody should give information to civilians.

23 January 2007 Erhan Tuncel, an arrested student of the Black Sea Technical University in Trabzon, who is said to have given orders to Yasin Hayal (who in turn incited O.S. to the murder), is said to have taken part in the organisation of BBP leader Muhsin Yazicioglu's Trabzon visits. In a photo taken at a press conference in Trabzon, Yazicioglu and Tuncel are in the same photo. Yazicioglu comments:

"I do not think that he is a member of the BBP, but he might have frequented the Hearth. Are we establishing a crime from every photo?"

23 January 2007 At a B-League football match, the Football Federation bans a placard saying "We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenian" [the text used on placards at his funeral to express solidarity] from being shown.

24 January 2007 After being questioned at the police station and being taken to Besiktas court in Istanbul, suspect Yasin Hayal shouts at the journalists:

"Orhan Pamuk had better be careful!" The same day, in their first confrontation, O.S. asks Hayal: "Why did you make me kill him?" O.S. claims that "Yasin Hayal said 'kill' and I killed him".

24 January 2007 Trabzon Mayor Hüseyin Yavuz comments on the murder by saying: " It was a murder carried out in an amateur manner. There is no ideological organisation. He was used by a person whose name we know and organised. He was encouraged".

24 January 2007 Istanbul Public Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin announces that including O.S. and Yasin Hayal five persons have been arrested.

24 January 2007 The Ankara Bar President's Office demands a discipline and punish investigation into the alleged threats to Hrant Dink by the Istanbul vice-governor and two other persons.

25 January 2007 Mete Cagdas, a columnist of a local newspaper in Sinop (western Black Sea), brings charges against the organising committee and participants in Hrant Dink's funeral procession for saying "We are all Armenian", claiming that this is contrary to Article 301.

26 January 2007 On the demand of the Istanbul Public Prosecution's Office, five suspects in the Hrant Dink murder are not charged with founding a terrorist organisation. This is to the advantage of the suspects.

28 January 2007 In a match between Kayserispor and Trabzonspor, and in another match on the same day, placards reading "We are all Turkish", "We are all from Trabzon", "We are all Mustafa Kemal" are displayed.

30 January 2007 It is claimed that based on information by "key name" Erhan Tuncel, the Trabzon police informed the Istanbul police of a possible murder 11 months ago. Student Tuncel states that he worked as a police informant and informed the police of the murder plan.

1 February 2007 According to ANKA news agency, an officer from the Trabzon police said that telephone calls by the Dink murder suspects were listened to from Augst to October 2006. The police allegedly applied for a new court decision in October to continue listening, but that was not granted. Because the suspect Yasin Hayal and his group lived in a gendarmerie zone, the police did not have sufficient authority to continue listening in on their calls.

2 February 2007 Pictures of murder suspect O.S. appear in the media. The pictures were taken after his capture in Samsun, and he is posing in front of a Turkish flag with an Atatürk quote. It later turns out that the Province Police Chief Mustafa Ilhan and the gendarmerie commander on duty, Captain Murat Bayrak, as well as a prosecutor were present when the photos were taken. Police and gendarmerie officers also made video recordings together with O.S. at the Samsun police headquarters. O.S. is obviously treated as a hero. Some others have taken pictures on digital and other cameras and on their mobile phones.

2 February 2007 The Turkish Left magazine, which had nominated Hrant Dink in 6th place for the "fascists of the year" in 2006, continues to publish, although the campaign is subject of a court case. The same magazine continues to publish articles which show that it is not disturbed by the murder. In an article by Gökce Firat, entitled "Turkey Has Lost an Enemy", it says:

"Dink does not become a martyr of the press or of democracy because he was murdered. When he was alive, he was an enemy of Turks and Turkey who defended the Armenian theses against this country".

4 February 2007 The "police informant" Erhan Tuncel is said to have been involved in the bombing of a McDonalds' branch in Trabzon in 2004. Milliyet newspaper finds out that although it was demanded that he be brought before court by the police after the bombing, he was never present at any hearings and virtually ignored. Although the court wanted Tuncel's telephone calls to be monitored, there was no application made later.

4 February 2007 At a football match in Afyonkarahisar (central Anatolia), fans on the tribunes shout "We are all Ogün" [the name of the young murder suspect] and wear white berets in his support.

6 February 2007 It becomes clear that Erhan Tuncel, the student police informant, was among those planning Dink's assassination. He informed the police in February 2006 that Yasin Hayal would kill Hrant Dink, and the Trabzon Police Headquarters informed Police Headquarters in Ankara and in Istanbul. Around 5 months later, gendarmerie officials were also informed. According to Milliyet newspaper, Yasin Hayal's aunt's husband Coskun Igci was arrested in Trabzon on 31 January and questioned at the Istanbul Police Department for Terrorism. Igci said that he had been working as an informant for the gendarmerie since 2004 and that he had informed the gendarmerie intelligence officers of Hayal's murder plan in July 2006.

12 February 2007 Trabzon Public Prosecutor Fatih Genc twice visits the young assasin O.A., who killed the priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon in February 2006. Genc asks O.A. if he was incited to the murder. O.A. however says that he was not.

15 February 2007 Because both Santoro and Dink murders were not classified as "terrorism", the Communication Monitoring Regulations do not allow for the monitoring of the criminal organisation.

22 March 2007 It turns out that the "big brother" Erhan Tuncel, who has been arrested for inciting the Hrant Dink murder, talked to a police officer called M.Z. from the Trabzon intelligence department after the murder. M.Z. asks questions such as: "Has your group committed the murder? Did it happen like you told me? Did Yasin shoot?"

27 March 2007 The BBP leader in Trabzon Province, Yasar Cihan, is arrested in the Dink case and says in his statement that in Trabzon everyone knew that Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal were planning to kill Dink. He claims to have tried to make them give up the plan but not to have been able to reach them. The son of Cihan says that he knew Erhan Tuncel at university and that Yasin Hayal was a neighbourhood friend. "I became close to them both at the Alperen Hearths. I have no connection to the Dink murder. I have not seen either of them for a year. I believe that Erhan Tuncel has been used by others."

27 March 2007 Hrant Dink's son Arat and brother Orhan Dink, with their lawyer Arzu Becerik, meet with one of the prosecutors responsible for the investigation, Fikret Secen. This is the second time they meet with the prosecution. The family has expressed its worries at the efficacy of the investigation.

28 March 2007 It emerges that the key person Erhan Tuncel was arrested in Trabzon, and that he was then read the statements of the other suspects and then let go. His flatmate Tuncay Uzundal says that Tuncel told him: "Last night they read me the statements of the people they had arrested. They asked my opinion and then let me go". Uzundal also explained some of the relations which Tuncel had with MIT (National Intelligence Service), the police and the gendarmerie.

Uzundal says that he heard of Yasin Hayal's arrest on television and that Tuncel did not come home until late that night.

20 April 2007 After the website of the Pelitlispor football club in Trabzon had published messages supporting the murders of Hrant Dink and priest Santoro, support for the murder of three Christians in Malatya on 18 April 2007 becomes apparent at a Malatyaspor website. The Pelitlispor internet site also speaks of the killers in Malatya as the "Malatya knights".

10 May 2007 In the course of the investigation it turns out that the Presidency of the Police Intelligence Department has destroyed a 48-page report on Erhan Tuncel. Apparently the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office had asked the Presidency of the Police Intelligence Department (PID) for information and documents in a letter on 29 January. A file sent by PID president and former Trabzon Police Chief Ramazan Akyürek on 6 February contains the report.

However, it is specified in the accompanying letter that the report contains vital information that must on no account be transcribed, and that all the attached files must be destroyed after having been read. In the same letter it is noted that the relevant file is also found in the archives and can always be obtained again. Thus the prosecution destroys the report.

Police officer M.Z., who was the contact person for Erhan Tuncel, says that Tuncel had told them that Yasin Hayal wanted to kill Hrant Dink. "We took it seriously and began to look around. We monitored Yasin's telephone. When we realised it was serious, we twice sent a report to the Presidency of the PID, and I used Tuncel to try and get Hayal to give up the plan."

19 May 2007 Armenian schools in Istanbul are sent unsigned threatening letters which read "Last warning and alert". According to newspaper reports, the letters also say "Some Armenians are involved in activities which damage the unity of Turkey". The letters were sent to the Esayan, Getronagan and Tibrevank high schools, and Yesilköy, Topkapi Levon Vartuhyan, Bakirköy Dadyan, Tarkmancats and Karagözyan primary schools.

1 June 2007 Four auditors researching whether there was neglect on behalf of the Trabzon Province Gendarmerie Command in preventing the murder of Hrant Dink cannot come to a unanimous decision. Two auditors demand permission to question four privates employed in the gendarmerie intelligence, while the two others do not see the need.

12 June 2007 The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation declare that Veli Kücük , retired brigadier general who is said to have threatened Hrant Dink, has relations to the Death Brigades. The organisation stresses that although the Dink family has demanded his investigation, Kücük has not been asked to give a statement.

2 July 2007 Because murder suspect O.S. is under age, the first heairng of the Dink murder trial is closed to the press. Suspect Erhan Tuncel claims that he has said everything he knows and that he did his duty (as a police informant). Suspect Yasin Hayal says that Erhan Tuncel was the leader. Hrant Dink’s widow said, “I am not accusing them, but of those whe remain in the dark, who are in darkness.” Birgün and Agos newspapers are accepted as joint plaintiffs.

13 September 2007 After the Trabzon Governor’s Office refuses permission to investigate some police officers, Dink family lawyer Bahri Belen requests access to the relevant file in order to examine it and take photocopies. The Governor’s Office refuses access, saying that the information is secret.

17 September 2007 The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecution starts an investigation into singer Ismail Türüt and composer Ozan Arif for a song entitled “Don’t make plans”, which indirectly praises the murder suspects. The Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed (Mazlum-Der) filed criminal complaints against Türüt and Ozan Arif.

28 September 2007 New evidence in the Hrant Dink case emerges. A recording of a telephone conversation between police informant Tuncel and police officer M.Z. shows that the police officer knew about the planned murder before. When Tuncel asks “Did he die?”, M.Z. says, “Of course, the only difference is that [the murderer] was not going to run away, but he did.”

1 October 2007 The second hearing of the murder trial takes place. Suspected triggerman O.S. says that he was led by Yasin Hayal and that he took drugs before committing the murder. The prison van which brought O.S. to court had a sticker with the nationalist slogan “Love [the country] or leave it” on it.

11 October 2007 The US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passes the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Hrant Dink’s lawyer and his son Arat Dink are accused of “denigrading Turkishness” and a year imprisonment each is demanded.

6 November 2007 The court decides to drop proceedings against Veli Kücük and nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz.

20 December 2007 The Armenian Parliament discusses Armenian-Turkish relations. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan, historian Yusuf Halacoglu, writer Orhan Pamuk and academic Baskin Oran are among those invited, but nobody follows the invitation.

15 January 2008 A recording of a phone call to the Trabzon gendarmerie emerges, in which an anonymous informant tells the gendarmerie officer that O.S. went to İstanbul with his friends. The information given in the phone call was not followed up, and the person making the phone call was not found. (MG/EÜ/TK/AG)
 
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