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Time for Justice for Hrant Dink, says MRG

12 October 2009

As the latest hearing begins today, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) urges the Turkish government to ensure an effective investigation and a fair trial in the murder case of Hrant Dink.

Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-Turkish weekly AGOS, was shot in front of the newspaper's office in Istanbul in January 2007. Ogün Samast, a young nationalist, along with four other suspects, is still under arrest for the crime, and almost three years have passed with little progress in the case.

MRG believes that the Turkish authorities have failed to carry out an effective and impartial investigation into the Dink murder. Prior to the shooting, Dink was publicly threatened, and intelligence information concerning plans to murder him were passed to the police. Officials who allegedly neglected to protect Dink, despite receiving information on the threat to his life, have retained the same or similar responsibilities and have avoided any serious consequences for their conduct.

Although a Prime Minister's Inspection Board report has disclosed this negligence, no progress has taken place. One critical reason is that Turkish law stipulates that public prosecutors cannot open an investigation against public officials, unless permission is given by the authorities. The governor's office, which in the Dink case is the relevant authority, has yet to give its permission.

International standards require the removal of public officials from responsibility in criminal proceedings when they are under suspicion of having been involved in the criminal act itself. Moreover, states must carry out an impartial and thorough investigation against all suspects. Yet Ali Fuat Yılmazer, the Head of C Unit of Police Intelligence, has been appointed Chief of Istanbul's Intelligence Unit, despite the fact that the Prime Minister's Inspection Board Report has demanded a review of his role in the Dink case.

MRG calls on the Turkish government to amend the law to allow public prosecutors to open an investigation without being subject to permission from the authorities, and ensure that any public officials are not actively involved in cases in which they may be implicated. MRG is also calling on the government to amend the Penal Code and regulate ‘racial motivation' as an aggravating circumstance for all crimes.

Although the Dink family's lawyers have repeatedly asked the Court to obtain evidence from different state bodies, not all of it has been provided. MRG urges the Turkish government to ensure that all relevant documents and evidence are handed over to the Court.

Despite large numbers of observers at these hearings, including journalists and NGO representatives, they are taking place at the small and overcrowded 14th Criminal Court in Besiktas. This fact can only be interpreted as a sign of the lack of will on the part of the Turkish authorities. Given the national and international significance of this case, MRG recommends that the Ministry of Justice move the hearing to a larger court room with adequate technical facilities.

Additionally, during the previous hearing on 6 July 2009, the MRG trial observer witnessed Ogün Samast threatening the Dink family. We urge the presiding Judge to put an end to such behaviour and call for an investigation into such threats.

Ten hearings and 21 months have passed without any significant progress in this case. MRG believes that this is a violation of the right to a fair trial, a principle guaranteed under national law and international standards, most particularly the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been ratified by Turkey.

Notes to Editors

• Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide

For more information and to arrange interviews contact:

MRG Turkey Coordinator

M: + 90 532 724 56 99.