Turkish police chief detained over Armenian editor’s 2007 murder

Demir is the third police officer detained in connection with the case this month

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A Turkish police chief handed himself in to authorities on Monday in connection with the murder of a prominent ethnic Armenian journalist who was gunned down outside his newspaper offices in Istanbul eight years ago to the day.

Ercan Demir, who had been assigned last month as police chief in the Kurdish town of Cizre, surrendered to police in the capital Ankara after an arrest warrant was issued in the murder trial of Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos, government officials said.

Demir is the third police officer detained in connection with the case this month, signalling a possible renewal in efforts to shed light on what Dink’s family has insisted was a conspiracy that involved state officials.

Dink, 52, was shot in broad daylight in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007, unleashing an outpouring of grief among hundreds of thousands of people angered by his murder as well as discrimination against non-Sunni and ethnic minorities.

At the time of Dink’s death, Demir worked in police intelligence in the city of Trabzon, where the teenage gunman in Dink’s murder resided. Demir has denied accusations he was derelict in duty and abused his office, media reports said.

A first trial finished in 2012 with 18 convictions, but judges ruled there was no organised plot to kill Dink. The Supreme Court reviewed that verdict, and a court in October said it would look at whether it was an organised crime.

Dink sought to reconcile Turks and Armenians, 60,000 of whom still live in Turkey after most of their forebears were killed or expelled by Ottoman soldiers during World War One.

Before his death, Dink was charged with "insulting Turkishness" and faced jail terms for reporting that the adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, was an Armenian orphan, among other articles.

"We are all Hrant, we are all Armenian," chanted several thousand people carrying placards demanding justice, marching on Monday to the spot where Dink was killed to commemorate the eighth anniversary of his murder.

This year also marks the centennial of the beginning of the mass slaughter of Armenians in Turkish lands. The Turkish government faces pressure to acknowledge the massacres were a systematic genocide, which it denies.

Armenians say 1.5 million people were killed. Turkey rejects such a high death toll and says more Turks were killed in the chaos of the war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.