Turkey begins retrial over murder of Armenian journalist

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A court in Istanbul began a retrial on Tuesday over the murder of an ethnic Armenian journalist, a case that has gripped the nation for years and sparked accusations of state conspiracy.

Hrant Dink, 52, was shot dead in broad daylight in 2007 outside the offices of his bilingual weekly newspaper Agos, sending shock waves across Turkey and triggering a wider scandal after reports that state security forces had known of the murder plot but failed to act.

A crowd of about 150 people gathered outside the courthouse, chanting: “We are all Hrant, we are all Armenians”, “For Hrant, for Justice” and “This trial won’t end like this.”

An Istanbul court in 2011 sentenced Dink’s self-confessed killer Ogun Samast, who was tried as a juvenile, to 23 years in jail.

A year later, the court sentenced the so-called mastermind of the murder, Yasin Hayal, to life in prison for inciting the killing but acquitted 18 other defendants, ruling that there was no conspiracy.

In May, Turkey’s appeals court partially overturned the 2012 verdict. It upheld the conviction for Hayal but ordered a retrial to look into whether he and another 18 acquitted defendants belonged to a criminal network.

From the outset, Dink’s lawyers had demanded a new investigation and a retrial to determine if there was a conspiracy behind the journalist’s killing.

The appeals court in May acknowledged that Dink’s killers did not act alone but were part of a criminal conspiracy, paving the way for a retrial of the case.

But it stopped short of launching a deeper investigation into the potential involvement of Turkey’s powerful institutions.

Dink’s lawyers and human rights defenders believe that those behind the murder were protected by the state because Dink had received threats for a long time before he was killed, often writing about them in his columns in Agos.

“Hrant Dink was killed... with instructions from public agents. The state will continue to protect those public agents,” Gulten Kaya of the Association of Friends of Hrant Dink said outside the courthouse.

Kaya said she was not optimistic about the outcome of the new trial.

“The picture is clear... It is possible that the instigator and its comrades will be sentenced for forming a gang,” she said while claiming that the real conspirators behind the murder would get away with the crime.

“The trial... will bring no justice.”

Three MPs from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party also attended the hearing.

Every year since Dink’s murder on January 19, 2007, thousands have gathered outside Agos offices on that date to remember the journalist, whose life-long campaign for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians won him as many enemies as admirers.

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