Murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist sparks Istanbul protest

Protestors seek justice for a prominent journalist killed seven years ago in what many believe was a government cover up

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Turkish riot police were out in force on Sunday as large crowds massed in Istanbul to demand justice for a prominent Turkish Armenian journalist murdered seven years ago.

"Murderer state will account for this," chanted several thousand protesters gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square to mark the anniversary of Hrant Dink's killing, with questions still lingering about the circumstances of his death.

A demonstration has been staged every year since Dink's murder and has often turned into a general plea for justice.

"I'm not here only for Hrant. For more than 100 years, there has been so much injustice in Turkey... and it is not only Armenians who have been affected," young historian Saro Dadyan told AFP.

Dink, 52, a leading member of Turkey's tiny Armenian community, was shot dead in broad daylight by a teenage ultranationalist outside the offices of his bilingual Agos newspaper on January 19, 2007.

He had campaigned for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, but incurred the wrath of Turkish nationalists for calling the mass killings of Armenians during World War I a genocide.

Dink's supporters believe that those behind the murder were protected by the state and have asked for a deeper investigation to uncover officials who were allegedly involved.

Backing up widespread accusations of a state conspiracy, a former police informant accused of instigating the murder claimed during his trial last month that he had warned police of the plot but they failed to act.

Dink's self-confessed murderer, Ogun Samast, a 17-year-old jobless high-school dropout at the time, was sentenced to almost 23 years in jail in 2011.

Sunday's rally came as the Turkish government is battling fresh protests in the wake of a wide-ranging corruption scandal ensnaring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's closest allies.

Turkish police on Saturday fired tear gas and plastic bullets to break up a protest by around 2,000 people over controversial plans to impose curbs on the Internet.

"This demonstration would still be meaningful even if there was no talk of corruption. Because all these people are here for justice," said one man at the Dink demonstration who only gave his first name Levent.

"So many people have been put behind bars for unfair reasons... Students, journalists, scientists and young people are suffering," the 45-year-old said.

Turkey has long been criticised for a lack of freedom of expression and has been branded the world's top jailer of journalists.

Dozens of journalists are in detention, as well as lawyers, politicians and lawmakers -- most of them accused of plotting against the government or having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

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