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Death of leading human rights activist “huge loss” for Turkey

19 January 2007

London – Minority Rights Group International (MRG) on Friday condemned the killing of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink saying the country had lost a leading human rights defender. “This is a huge loss not just for minorities but for everyone in Turkey. He was a defender of human rights and peace, a brave person, the type of person Turkey needs,” Nurcan Kaya, MRG’s Turkey programme officer said.

Dink, the editor of the newspaper Agos, was reportedly shot three times by unknown gunmen outside his office. He was a well-known critic of Turkey’s human rights record and was a rare spokesman for country’s non-Muslim minorities. He has been prosecuted several times in the past for writing about the Armenian genocide. On the last occasion in 2005 he was given a six month suspended sentence for writing on the issue. Dink was also attacked by nationalists and seen as a traitor by some in the Turkish media because of his preference to identify himself as an Armenian not a Turk.

The international human rights organisation also said the killing reflected the increasing extremist and nationalist sentiment in Turkey. “This killing is a manifestation of the rise in nationalism in Turkey today. In such situations it is always people from minority communities who are worst affected,” Kaya added.