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Turkey: life sentences for murder of journalist of Armenian origin

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An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced four people, including two former police chiefs, to life imprisonment after a trial linked to the murder of Turkish journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Dink, a verdict which did not satisfy the relatives of the victim.

Former police chiefs Ali Fuat Yilmazer and Ramazan Akyürek, as well as two former gendarmerie officials, Yavuz Karakaya and Muharrem Demirkale, were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the assassination of the Turkish journalist from of Armenian origin Hrant Dink in 2007 in front of the premises ofNear, bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly that he ran.

But many officials, including former police chiefs in Istanbul and Trabzon (northeast), accused by the victim’s family of being involved, were acquitted for “statute of limitations”.

The family’s lawyers had submitted to the court information indicating that these police chiefs had been informed of the plan to assassinate Hrant Dink, but took no action to prevent it.

“Those responsible still not prosecuted”

The assassination of Hrant Dink at the age of 52 had shaken Turkey. In Istanbul, more than 100,000 people marched on the day of the funeral. Hrant Dink worked for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, but Turkish nationalists criticized him for speaking openly about the Armenian genocide of 1915, which Ankara refuses to recognize.

His murderer, Ogün Samast, a minor at the time of the facts, confessed to the crime and was sentenced in July 2011 to 23 years in prison.

For human rights defenders, the trial which ended on Friday did not fully elucidate this crime. “Some officials are still not prosecuted. This partial justice rendered after 14 years leaves a bitter taste, ”reacted the representative of the NGO Reporters Without Borders in Turkey, Erol Önderoglu. “We still do not know exactly by which mechanisms the crime was decided and committed”, denounced Bulent Aydin, of the group “The Friends of Hrant Dink”.

Fethullah Gülen movement pointed out

The Turkish authorities claim that this murder was piloted by the movement of the preacher Fethullah Gülen, bête noire of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after having been his ally for a long time.

During the commemoration of the assassination last January, the journalist’s widow denounced an attempt to hide the State’s responsibility for the crime. “Saying ‘I did not commit it, but it was (Gülen’s organization) that did it”, is like saying “it is not me, but my hand is the culprit”, had said Rakel Dink.

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