The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court said in its 216-page-long reasoned decision, distributed to lawyers involved in the case on Thursday, that the court could not establish that the journalist was killed by an organized criminal network. In what many said was a shocking and frustrating ruling in the five-year-long trial of the Dink case, the İstanbul court last month cleared all suspects of charges of membership in a criminal organization, angering lawyers and many others who say the trial failed to shed light on alleged connections between the suspects and state officials.
The court convicted Yasin Hayal, a major suspect in the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Dink, of instigating a murder and sentenced him to life in prison. Another suspected instigator, Erhan Tuncel, was acquitted by the court.
“We have on our hands a situation in which it is unnatural for the suspects to decide on and commit a murder on their own that would bring about so many political consequences. This situation also raises suspicion [of the involvement of a criminal organization in the murder]. Suspicion is a rule of criminal law which should be interpreted in favor of the suspect. Because of all these reasons, it was necessary to acquit the suspects [of membership in a terrorist organization] since the crimes of establishing, being a member of and aiding a terrorist organization attributed to the suspects could not be certainly proven with concrete evidence,” the court said.
The court added that the evidence on hand failed to establish when and with what motive a criminal organization would have had a hand in the murder.
Dink was shot dead on Jan. 19, 2007 by ultranationalist Ogün Samast outside the offices of his newspaper in İstanbul in broad daylight. Even though five years have passed since his assassination, Dink family lawyers and civil society organizations have long remained concerned that evidence relating to the real perpetrators of the crime is still being covered up and that even if the court’s ruling punishes the hit men, the public’s sense of justice will not be satisfied. The assassination is suspected of being the work of Ergenekon, a clandestine network whose suspected members — including generals, military officers and many civilians — are currently in jail for plotting a military takeover.