[MONDAY TALK] Çetin: Dink case offers chance to solve Ergenekon puzzle
Fethiye Çetin, a lawyer representing the family of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated by a young man under the influence of ultranationalism, has said she will be thoroughly reviewing the indictment against the Ergenekon terrorist organization to find leads that will help in resolving unanswered questions surrounding Dink's murder.
Dink was shot dead outside the offices of the Agos newspaper in İstanbul in January 2007. "Hrant's murder was committed following a long period of preparation. Some people who have been arrested as a result of the Ergenekon operation were very active in the process leading to Hrant's murder. For example, take Levent Temiz. He had come to the street where Agos' office is located and protested against Hrant. In those protests, he clearly said 'Hrant Dink is our target' in 2004," Çetin explained.
The sixth hearing of the trial over Dink’s murder last Monday was open to the press, for the first time since Ogün Samast, who confessed to the murder, became 18.
For Monday Talk Çetin discussed the progress of the murder trial since it started a year ago.
What has happened in the year since the Dink murder trial began?
We have seen some important developments over the course of the trial. One of the most important of these developments was that during a separate trial going on in Trabzon; two gendarmerie officers changed their previous testimonies and said they were informed about the murder plot against Dink and that they informed their superiors about it, but the higher officers did not take action. In addition, they said the superior officers made up false reports after the murder and threatened a suspect’s uncle to prevent him from telling the truth. This was the first important change.
What is the other important development?
Some officials from the Trabzon security forces had contacted İstanbul security officials and informed them that Hayal would come to İstanbul to kill Dink. However, the İstanbul police did nothing although it and prepared false reports as if it had. These important factors have been revealed.
What does this show?
It shows that the security forces, which are responsible for ensuring our safety, not only knew about the plans to murder Dink but also helped the murder to be carried out.
How long have you been saying this?
We have been saying this from the beginning. Following an inspection from the İstanbul police, we looked at the documents and saw the false report. And when we saw the documents related to the pending case in Trabzon, we saw falsely documented reports there, too. We had another development at the sixth hearing.
Erhan Tuncel [another suspect linked to the Dink murder who was previously charged with being a member of an armed criminal group formed to commit crimes and inciting premeditated murder] demanded that intelligence officers who had been working at the Trabzon security forces be called to the next hearing, and the court agreed to this. So we will hear from those intelligence officers in the next hearing on Oct. 13.
You have long argued that all the separate cases related to Dink’s murder should have been combined. Why is it so important to do that?
In order to solve the murder case, we need to be able to see the whole picture that led to Dink’s murder. We cannot do that with one separate case in Trabzon, another in Samsun and yet another in İstanbul.
What do you expect to see if those cases are combined?
There are several actors who played roles in Dink’s murder. The murder did not happen all of a sudden as a result of one person’s decision to commit the crime. If all the separate cases are combined, we expect that the perpetrators will be punished commensurate with the crime they committed. For example, in a separate case in Trabzon somebody has been punished with a prison sentence of six months for dereliction of duty. However, if that case was part of the main murder trial, then we would be able to ask for his punishment under Articles 83 and 220 of the Turkish Penal Code [TCK]. Article 83 relates to malicious murder by dereliction of duty. And Article 220 clearly states that if you contribute to organized crimes intentionally, as in the case of Dink’s assassination, then you need to be tried and punished accordingly. So we would see heavier punishments for the defendants if their cases were handled under the main Dink trial.
Why do you think this is not happening?
There is a law numbered 4483 in Turkey that protects public workers. The mentality behind this law is that the deep-state elements have had some jobs done through some public officers and, as a result, those workers need to be protected. It works like this: Suspects are evaluated under Law 4483 and their cases are sent to the governor for his permission to assign an inspector. If the governor permits an inspector to look into the case, he or she looks at whatever documents are provided and writes a report so a decision is made whether or not there will be an investigation about the suspects.
How did it work in Trabzon?
With the governor’s permission an inspector prepared a report. And based on that report an investigation started about those two gendarmerie officers who told the prosecutor that they were informed by Yasin Hayal’s uncle about the murder plan and let their superiors know about it so even that little case resulted in such a revelation. If the governor had permission to investigate the Trabzon security forces as a whole, we could have obtained much more information about Hrant’s murder.
Hayal, who confessed to inciting the killing of Dink by providing gunman Samast with a gun and money, has been under the scrutiny of the police since he served time in prison after bombing a McDonald’s restaurant in Trabzon in 2004, right?
As we have found out, Hayal was being monitored by both the police and the gendarmerie since the McDonald’s case. Coşkun İğci, Hayal’s uncle, who testified last Monday, said he tried to dissuade Hayal from his plans to have Dink murdered but was unable to do so and thus informed gendarmerie officers, who told him they were already monitoring Hayal.
Were they physically following him?
They were physically following him and also listening to his phone calls.
Are there documents of this?
Most of the documents have not been shared with the prosecutors. They were either “lost” or “destroyed.” We also asked the Trabzon security forces for those documents, but they said they sent “the necessary parts” to the prosecutors and then destroyed the rest. During our investigation process into Hrant’s murder, I also found out that intelligence units of the state do not share information with each other, although there is a law to make sure they do.
Why don’t they share information?
I can only speculate and say there may be a power struggle.
What has happened in regards to the İstanbul police?
There was no permission given for an investigation into İstanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah. We objected to that decision, but our objection was overturned.
Isn’t it quite unusual in Turkey that those gendarmerie officials changed their testimonies and then returned to their duties as though it was business as usual? You wouldn’t expect they would be able to overstep their superior, would you?
That’s right. They even returned to their previous posts. This tells us that recent developments in Turkey might have had an effect on all that.
Developments related to the Ergenekon investigation and the arrests of dozens of people who might have been involved in organized crime. In the past, Col. Ali Öz, who was then gendarmerie regiment commander in Trabzon and in charge of the two gendarmerie officials, was able to pressure lower officers, but now things are changing.
So Öz is a name that the criminal network can dispense with?
Yes, he is the one being pointed at for now. Ali Öz has been involved in other cases that are thought to be related to the deep state. He was tried before. One of those cases relate to the murder of journalist Ahmet Taner Kışlalı. Ali Öz is believed to have arrived at the murder scene first and destroyed most of the evidence.
Where is Öz now?
He was transferred in March from the Aegean city of Bilecik to the Bursa Gendarmerie. He should have been removed from duty as soon as his involvement in Dink’s murder case was understood. He will testify in Bursa this month.
You indicated before that you will thoroughly review the Ergenekon indictment in order to find leads related to Hrant Dink’s assassination. What do you expect to find?
Hrant’s murder was committed following a long period of preparation. Some people who have been arrested as a result of the Ergenekon operation were very active in the process leading to Hrant’s murder. For example, take Levent Temiz. He had come to the street where Agos’ office is located and protested against Hrant. In those protests, he clearly said ‘Hrant Dink is our target’ in 2004.
In 2004 Hrant Dink had published an article in Agos that Sabiha Gökçen, the adopted daughter of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and Turkey’s first female pilot was an Armenian orphan, right?
At the beginning of 2004, Dink had this story in Agos, and Hürriyet took this story and exaggerated it. Hrant was called to the Governor’s Office together with his documents over the story. He went to the Governor’s Office, where he was threatened by the deputy governor’s two “guests,” who did not identify themselves, as Hrant told us. He was not even asked to leave the documents he brought with him. Then we started to see ultranationalist groups’ protests in front of Agos and several Article 301 charges against Hrant Dink. Some petitioners in the cases and some who followed those cases closely -- such as retired Gen. Veli Küçük, Kemal Kerinçsiz, Oktay Yıldırım and Sevgi Erenerol -- have been arrested in relation to the Ergenekon investigation. These are just the things I can pinpoint while observing the Ergenekon operation from outside.
A close friend of Hrant Dink, writer and intellectual Ali Bayramoğlu, had said during a Monday Talk interview following the detentions of a number of people under the Ergenekon investigation that Dink would have said “justice has been done” if he had seen the arrests. Do you share this opinion?
The arrests were important, but we can only say that justice has been done when all the evidence in the Hrant’s murder has been laid out and the perpetrators have been punished in accordance with the crimes they committed.
What would Küçük do during the trials against Dink?
He and his supporters were doing the same things at Elif Şafak and Orhan Pamuk’s trials. I would always ask for special security before the trials against Hrant Dink. Veli Küçük would come to the hearings with his supporters, and we would have to go through a crowd that was ready to lynch Hrant. Küçük’s supporters would kiss his hand. He wanted to be an intervening party in the case because he claimed that as Turks, they were harmed by Hrant Dink’s statements regarding Turks’ relations with Armenians in this country.
Were you prompted to suspect new links with the latest round of arrests related to the Ergenekon operation? Levent Temiz was among the latest detainees, so it was important for us to know that he was a suspect in the Ergenekon case. He was the first to threaten Hrant Dink publicly. He later became a lawyer and wanted to be an attorney of an intervening party in Dink’s trials. His acts were important to starting an uproar on the streets against Hrant. Solving Hrant Dink’s murder means also solving the Ergenekon case because Dink’s murder showed the world that elements within the state were involved in the murder plot. This fact directly relates to the Ergenekon case. We lost Hrant, but we have been given an opportunity to uncover deep state elements.
Fethiye Çetin, lawyer and human rights activist
Çetin represents the family of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated on Jan. 19, 2007 by a 17-year-old influenced by ultranationalism. Çetin also represented Dink several times before his death when he was prosecuted for insulting Turkishness and receiving death threats from Turkish ultranationalists. Turkey saw the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup when Çetin was at the faculty of law at Ankara University. In that period, she was arrested and put in prison for violating the infamous Article 141 (repealed in the late ’80s) of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) because she was a member of the Turkish Communist Party. She has been working as an attorney in İstanbul since 1991. A former spokesperson for the minorities’ commission of the İstanbul Bar Association, she concentrates on cases related to human rights, minority rights and freedom of speech. In 2004 she wrote the book “Anneannem” (”My Grandmother”), which has been translated into several languages, including English. It is an homage to the memory of her grandmother and others who were once Armenian Christians but had to live hidden lives as Turkish Muslims