A Turkish court has sentenced two former police chiefs to life terms in prison for their role in the killing of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink more than 14 years ago, state media reported.
The editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos and then Turkey’s best known Armenian voice abroad, Dink was shot dead as he left his Istanbul office in January 2007. After the murder, tens of thousands gathered in central Istanbul to mourn.
In 2011, Dink’s assassin Ogun Samast was sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison by a juvenile court. He was 17 when the killing took place. The following January, a man named Yasin Hayal was sentenced to life in jail for instigating the killing.
Among those sentenced by the court on Friday, former police intelligence chief Ali Fuat Yilmazer received a jail sentence without parole for murder, the Anadolu news agency said. Another police chief, Ramazan Akyurek, was also handed a life sentence.
State media said the court ruled that the murder was carried out in line with the goals of a clandestine network linked to US-based Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating an attempted coup in July 2016.
Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999 and denies any involvement in the failed putsch, was one of the 13 fugitives from justice among 76 defendants on trial in the Dink case. The court did not rule on the case of Gulen and the other 12 fugitives and instead separated their cases.
Following the sentencing on Friday, the slain journalist’s family and lawyers insisted, however, that the long-drawn-out trial had failed to shed light on the killing and possible collusion, and said they would appeal.
Lawyer Hakan Bakircioglu, representing Dink’s family, said the trial did not “reveal all aspects of the killing”.
“We will take it to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court,” he said. “We will force this process until the end to ensure a proper trial.”
Other defendants in the Dink case were given jail sentences on charges including accessory to murder, membership of a terrorist group – due to links to Gulen’s network – as well as faking and destroying documents, state media reported.
Ankara says Gulen’s network had widely infiltrated Turkey’s police and other state institutions over decades.
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay 100,000 euros ($118,000) to Dink’s family in compensation, saying the authorities had failed to adequately protect Dink even though they knew ultranationalists were plotting to kill him.
Dink had worked for reconciliation between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks and was repeatedly prosecuted for insulting “Turkishness” over his comments on Armenian identity and the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.