Demonstrators hold a banner reading "For Hrant, For Justice" during a gathering in front of a courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 26, 2021. Verdicts were recently announced in the murder case of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist who was killed in 2007. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Family of slain Turkish journalist Hrant Dink vows to appeal trial verdict

Istanbul, March 29, 2021 – Turkish authorities must conduct an impartial and depoliticized investigation into the killing of journalist Hrant Dink, and ensure that all those involved in planning and committing the killing are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 26, the 14th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes acquitted 37 of 77 defendants on trial for the journalist’s 2007 killing, and convicted 26, according to local independent outlet Bianet. Of those convicted, four were sentenced to life in prison, including two without the possibility of parole, according to that report.

Among those convicted was Ercan Gün, a former news editor for FOX TV Turkey, who has been imprisoned since 2016 for allegedly conspiring to blame the Turkish government for the journalist’s killing; he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” according to independent online newspaper Diken, which said that he pleaded not guilty.

Dink’s family intends to appeal the verdict, saying in a statement that they did not believe that the court exposed the full conspiracy behind his killing, according to news reports.

“The prosecution of the murder of Turkish journalist Hrant Dink remains unsatisfactory, as voiced by the Dink family and their lawyers,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkish authorities must allow an unbiased, comprehensive investigation into each actor suspected of involvement in the conspiracy and leave nothing in the dark. The family’s appeal should present authorities with a fresh chance to treat this case with the seriousness it deserves.”

No verdicts were handed down in the cases of 13 people who did not appear in court, and one who died before the verdict was announced, according to Bianet. Six of the defendants had been imprisoned pending trial, and on March 26 the court ordered the arrests of six others, who are now being held pending their appeals, according to leftist daily Evrensel.

The Dink murder trial merged the retrial of the original murder conspiracy case from 2007, retrials of side cases against state and military officials, and a renewed investigation from 2017, as CPJ has documented. Four people were convicted in 2012 of committing the murder itself, as CPJ documented at the time.  

Authorities allege that people aligned with exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom they blame for the attempted coup in 2016, played a role in Dink’s murder; CPJ has also documented concerns that political shifts against Gülen have affected the investigation into Dink’s killing.

Gülen himself is among the 13 cases that were separated from the trial, according to Bianet and Diken, which stated that that group also included exiled Turkish journalists Ekrem Dumanlı, Faruk Mercan, and Adem Yavuz Arslan.