Turkish court releases defendant in Hrant Dink assassination case from jail

A Turkish court released the only arrested defendant in the Hrant Dink murder case, which involves 11 individuals including police officers, facing charges of "violating the constitution." He was a deputy commissioner at Trabzon Anti-Terrorism Department where the murder was planned.

Duvar English

Sixteen years after the assassination of daily Agos’ Editor-in-Chief Hrant Dink in front of the newspaper in 2007, the second hearing of the new lawsuit filed in 2023 against 11 defendants in relation to the murder was held on Sept. 20.

An Istanbul High Criminal Court ruled to release Adem Sağlam, who was a deputy commissioner at Trabzon Anti-Terrorism Department where the murder was planned, from jail under judicial control measures. He was the only arrested defendant in the case.

The defendants in the new case, including former police chiefs and instigators, are accused of "violating the constitution,” "committing a crime on behalf of Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)" and "intentional killing with negligent behavior.”

Sağlam was in prison under arrest, while the other defendants were in prison under conviction from the main case. 

In the final hearing of the main trial held in 2021, 37 public officials accused of various offenses, including not intervening despite knowing about the murder plans, were acquitted, while 26 defendants were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, including four life sentences and two aggravated life sentences.

The murderer Ogün Samast, who was 17 years old at the time of the murder, lived in Trabzon and was caught on his way back to Trabzon after the murder. He was tried in the juvenile court and sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in prison.

Police and gendarmerie officers pose with murderer Samast after they caught him.

Ramazan Akyürek, who was the police chief at the time in Trabzon province during the planning of murder and was the head of the Police Intelligence Department at the time of the murder, also made his defense.  

Akyürek was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for “intentional homicide by design” and five years in prison for “destroying official documents” in the main trial. 

In his defense, Akyürek blamed the Istanbul Police Intelligence Branch, the Trabzon police officers who took office after him, and the Trabzon gendarmerie.

Akyürek accused the Istanbul police of failing to take necessary measures despite being warned about the threat before the murder and stated, "They received the information 11 months before the murder. During the period when I was the head of the intelligence department, official letters were written to 81 provinces, including Trabzon and Istanbul, to take protective measures for Armenian citizens.”

Akyürek stated that the real culprits who "awaited the murder's execution" were Istanbul Intelligence Branch Director Ahmet İlhan Güler, his deputy Bülent Köksal, and Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah.

Akyürek said that there was no one in the Trabzon gendarmerie who did not have the information that Dink would be murdered and that the gendarmerie did not inform the authorities about this situation until the murder. 

“Metin Yıldız, the director of the Trabzon gendarmerie intelligence branch, prepared the report on the murder as if it had been obtained immediately after the murder. The gendarmerie was informed about the false information he would give. The regiment commander, Ali Öz, also controlled the information he was going to give. Right now Ali Öz is at home, Metin Yıldız is on duty, and I am in prison,” he added. 

The next hearing will be held on Dec. 6. 

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. 

An Istanbul court ruled in March 2021 that the murder was carried out in line with the goals of the Gülen network, which the Turkish authorities refer to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).