Dink memorial march draws thousands in Turkey

Crowds mark five years since death amid anger over trial's failure to uncover suspected conspiracy behind killing.

    Supporters of Dink made a memorial at the site of his killing, outside the office of the newspaper he wrote for [Reuters]

    Tens of thousands of protesters have marked the fifth anniversary of a Turkish-Armenian journalist's murder as outrage continues to grow over a trial that failed to shed light on alleged official negligence or even collusion.

    On Thursday, human rights activists placed red carnations at the place where Hrant Dink was gunned down in broad daylight outside of his minority Agos newspaper office in Istanbul by a nationalist teenage gunman.

    Many people carried black banners that read: "We are all Hrant, we are all Armenian," and some chanted, "Turkey will be a grave for fascism".

    The call to march was shared by Turkish political and business leaders who expressed unease over this week's sentencing of Yasin Hayal to life in prison for masterminding the killing, while another 17 people were acquitted of charges of acting under the orders of a group defined in Turkey as "terrorist".

    The court neglected to issue a verdict about a 19th suspect.

    "The verdict is tragic and is weighing heavily on the conscience of everyone in Turkey," said Rober Koptas, Dink's son-in-law and editor-in-chief of Agos.

    Turkey's leaders have vowed a thorough investigation into Dink's killing, signaling dissatisfaction with Tuesday's court ruling by a panel of judges.

    'Lack of legal evidence'

    Dink's lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict, saying the investigation was flawed because the judiciary had not followed up on evidence alleging officials may have been aware of the plot.

    While the acquittal of others who had been allegedly involved in the killing outraged many, Rustem Eryilmaz, who led the panel of judges, caused even more anger.

    Eryilmaz told the Vatan newspaper in an interview published Thursday that he was not satisfied with the decision, saying that the court had failed to reveal allegations of negligence or collusion between the state and the suspects.

    "We could not shed light on what was going on behind the scenes, which is what everyone is curious about," Eryilmaz said.

    "There must be instigators ... but there is a need for evidence to accept the existence of such from a legal perspective."

    Eryilmaz said the judges felt pressure to issue a verdict after the four-and-a-half-year trial, and did not have time to examine thousands of telephone conversations at the scene on the day of the assassination.

    Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said Eryilmaz's remarks were unacceptable and questioned why and how the court had neglected to issue its verdict on the 19th suspect.

    "The assumption that only one person was responsible for this incident has damaged the public conscience," Arinc said Thursday.

    The gunman, Ogun Samast, was sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison in July by a separate juvenile court.

    Dink's murder highlights Turkey's uneasy relationship with its ethnic and religious minorities, including at least 60,000 Armenian Christians.

    The case also shines light onto the country's harsh experience for journalists, of whom 99 were incarcerated in Turkish prisons near the end of 2011, according to Turkey's Union of Journalists.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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