The Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court sentenced former police chiefs Ali Fuat Yılmazer and Ramazan Akyürek to aggravated life sentences during the final hearing of the Hrant Dink murder case whilst Former Istanbul Police Chief of Celalettin Cerrah and intelligence officer Sabri Uzun were not given any sentence due to a “time out”, Gazete Karınca reports.
After 131 hearings over a ten year period, the court in Turkey announced its decision in the “retrial of state officials” in the “Hrant Dink case” on Friday 26 March.
Key names of the trial, Former Istanbul Police Chief of Celalettin Cerrah and intelligence officer Sabri Uzun were not given any sentence due to a “time out”. The files of thirteen defendants, including Fethullah Gülen and Zekeriya Öz, were separated from the main murder case.
27 people found guilty of Hrant Dink’s murder
The Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court issued its verdict on 77 defendants: 33 defendants were acquitted and 27 were found guilty. Seven defendants received a life sentence on the grounds that they played a role – as public officials – in the murder of Dink. The former Istanbul Gendarmerie Intelligence Branch Directorate, Bekir Yokuş, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “aiding to kill deliberately”.
Former Istanbul Gendarmerie Intelligence Branch Officer Yavuz Karakaya was sentenced to life imprisonment for “violating the Constitution” and to 12 years and 6 months in prison for “helping to murder intentionally”. The former Trabzon Police Chief Reşat Altay was acquitted of charges of “murder due to negligence” on the grounds of a “lapse of time.”
Aggravated life sentence for former police chiefs
The court pronounced an aggravated life sentence in prison for “deliberate murder” for the former Chief of Police Intelligence Department, Ramazan Akyürek. Akyürek was additionally sentenced to five years and seven months and 15 days in prison on the grounds of “eliminating official documents”.
The court also pronounced an aggravated life sentence in prison for Ali Fuat Yılmazer, the former Istanbul Intelligence Branch Manager when Hrant Dink was killed by an assassin. Yılmazer was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment for “destroying official documents”.
A former soldier, Muharrem Demirkale, who had been under arrest, received a two-time aggravated life sentence.
All charges were dropped due to a “lapse of time” for Celalettin Cerrah, the Istanbul Police Director of the period, and Sabri Uzun, the former Head of the Security General Directorate Intelligence Department. Ecevit Emir and Emre Cingöz were acquitted of charges.
The struggle for justice by Dink’s family and friends
After nearly 14 years and several court cases, several aspects relating to the murder of Hrant Dink remain unresolved to this day, argue many friends and family members of the Dink family. Hrant Dink was the editor-in-chief of Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, and was killed outside his office in Istanbul a by 17-year-old gunman, Ogün Samast, on 19 January 2007.
Dink had been known for his left-wing thoughts and his efforts to create a governmental and societal dialogue which recognised the existence, rights and significance of Armenian communities and identities in Turkey. In 2004, Dink was charged with the accusation of ”insulting Turkish identity”. In 2005, Dink was convicted of this charge and faced several racist attacks and physical assaults as well as several media outlets campaigns targeting him with hate-speech crimes.
Two weeks before his murder, Dink drew attention in an article in Agos to the manner in which state actors had sought to increase political tensions in the country through attacks, threats and court cases against him. The European Court of Human Rights held that the Turkish Government violated Articles 2 (the ‘Right to Life’), 10 (relating to ‘Freedom of Expression’) and 13 (the ‘Right to an effective remedy’) of the European Convention on Human Rights when authorities failed to protect him, resulting in his murder.
“Dink was an outspoken member of the Armenian minority in Turkey and was murdered for his writings. Turkish authorities were aware of an assassination plot preceding Dink’s murder and did not act on the information. Further, the court found that states have a positive obligation to create a favourable environment for participation in public debate”, the ECHR stated in its decision.