Sunday, January 22, 2012

Who is afraid of the big bad wolf? An overview of Hrant Dink's Case

Last week, on the fifth anniversary of his assassination, Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's murder trial was concluded with an anticlimax; only a few people were found guilty and not only according to the verdict there were no indications of organized crime, but also the distribution of sentences as well as many shady dynamics such as the Telecommunication Communication Agency [TİB]'s refusal for a long time to give phone call details from the murder location, including the suspects' of the time, under the pretext of violation of privacy and so on, turned the case into a gridlock.

Whereas Yasin Hayal, one of the people found guilty and who received a life sentence said that the state used him beginning with Ramazan Akyürek, the head of the police intelligence office at the time, the prosecutor insisted that it is not the state but a hundred-year long operating terrorist organization that was guilty. Rakel Dink, late Hrant Dink's wife had written a letter to PM Erdoğan to request an investigation of the intelligence ties between Erhan Tuncel and Ramazan Akyürek. Erhan Tuncel has been acquitted and Ramazan Akyürek can return to his work as of last Spring 2011, as the decision to dismiss him has been annulled.[1]

Some others, on the other hand, mentioned "Kafes Eylem Planı" [Cage or Kafes Action Plan] at play, a document reported to be found during a police raid in the office of an Ergenekon suspect, Levent Bektaş. Among other things, the plan reported (by the police and TÜBİTAK reports) to be found in a DVD mentioned different murders, including that of non-Muslims, to bring chaos to the country so that there could be a military coup.

And yet, there are oddities in that respect too: the police raid and the confiscation of DVDs and CDs took place on April 22, 2009. The DVDs and CDs were sent to an expert to receive a detailed account of the contents, which were completed and sent to the prosecutor's office on May 9th. Here are the strange facts: 1) Even before receiving the list of the contents of the DVDs, the prosecutor surprisingly used Kafes Action Plan [supposedly discovered in this DVD after the expert report revealing the contents on May 9th] to interrogate a suspect, on April 27. If this were the only oddity, the anachronistic incident could perhaps be ignored. But the oddities continue: 2) The DVD and the Kafes/Cage Action Plan claimed to be found in it are included both in TÜBİTAK and in police reports. Subsequently, an indictment is prepared on this plan, using this information in the police report. 3) It seems like the first experts only analyzed a few of the CD and DVDs, and not the whole collection of DVD and CDs confiscated in Bektaş's office. But why not look into all the DVDs and CDs that are submitted to them for analysis? 4) An expert team at Boğaziçi University and another computer forensics team located in New York did not find the same data. That is to say, according to their work on the DVD image provided by the court, the files claimed to be stored in those DVD and CDs by TÜBİTAK [2] and the law enforcement--and this includes Kafes/Cage Action Plan, did not exist in that CD or DVD.

Where does all this leave us?

Rober Koptaş, editor-in-chief of late Hrant Dink's newspaper Agos, provides his own interpretation of the bigger picture of the Dink case as one of power struggles in his piece in Agos, and offers his view of the case dynamics with the following equation:

"In a nutshell:
Yasin Hayal = Gendarmerie + Ergenekon + Anti-Gülen wing in the Police Department 

Erhan Tuncel = Gülenist police officers + Akyürek and his team"

Rober Koptaş calls attention to how different alliances seek to blame each other, trying to cover up their own responsibilities, which has already been argued on different forums as well.  As for Koptaş, he rightfully asks where the government and MIT, the Turkish intelligence agency are at in this equation.

As the controversy on the trial continues, bigger power struggles seem to crystallize around Hrant Dink's murder case, and considering how very similar controversies revolve around Malatya Zirve missionary murders and Priest Santoro's assassination cases in a parallel manner to Dink's case, it is likely that the power struggles might continue on different planes [3]. Whether these murders are linked to one another or not, three things are certain:
1) Hate crimes might be committed by individuals with different motives, but for decades, it has been the state that planted seeds of discrimination and hate speech through school textbooks, taking positions on conflicts, silencing historical events, and so on. 2) Independent from institutions and individuals that might have been involved in these cases, what might also be linking these cases are the power struggles that revolve around them and the impulse for appropriating these cases in an attempt to legitimizing their own voice, or possibly masking one's own position in them. In short, yet another power game. 3) These power struggles do much damage to these cases, and many others including Ergenekon, as each group seems to strive to use them for their own gain.

There are several books written on the subject and one of them is by the award-winning journalist Nedim Şener who is now in jail; similar to other journalists, Şener had been also prosecuted for having written a book on the subject by Akyürek, Zenit, Sarı and Yılmazer, and was tried with a demand of about 20 years of prison [he has later been acquitted on this case]. Şener's book was on the gendarmerie, intelligence and law enforcement involvement/problems in the Hrant Dink murder case. Another book, Bi Ermeni Var [4], on the other hand, again on the subject of Hrant Dink's murder, that Kürşat Bumin in Yeni Şafak called "written to protect one side and to put the blame entirely on the other" is advertised by Gülen's media flagship Today's Zaman as "shedding light" on the unknown sides of the murder. The book brings new documents and focuses on the gendarmerie mostly, but seems to be very selective when it comes to police officers, mostly putting the blame on some of the Istanbul police, and appears to divert the attention from mostly both the Police Intelligence Department [with the exception of an officer claimed to be anti-Gülenist by some] or the Trabzon police--seemingly sheltering Akyürek and others.

Thus shedding light, if at all, on parts of what might have happened, this book, because of the way in which it was written, comes across as contributing to the struggle between different parties that Rober Koptaş had mentioned, and therefore it actually seems to be part of these struggles itself (and not above them), as Kürşat Bumin also points out. The book and Zaman and Today's Zaman concurrently reproduce the same discourse in highlighting the web of allegations around Istanbul Police Department and Trabzon gendarmerie, which no doubt is part of the truth, but seem to conveniently overlook Trabzon Police Department--as exemplified here; of course, we still do not know what the Trabzon Police Department's responsibility in the Dink murder might be, because there is a court decision against investigating them  even though Dink lawyers requested prosecuting Trabzon Police Department multiple times [5]. As for the book Bi Ermeni Var, it does leave us with this question: why serve the evidence details to a journalist to write a book, instead of submitting them to the authorities in order to help the investigation, as Dink lawyer Fethiye Çetin also remarked [as reported by Bumin]?

In a recent hearing, Şener said that he was arrested in order to obscure the Dink case, and that the police officers who investigate the case, are the same officers who are responsible of this murder. Pointing at the problems with the fact that the prosecutors turn police reports unproblematically into indictments, Şener expressed that he was being prosecuted for having exposed the real responsible parties in the Dink case. Later, he additionaly "stated that the forces behind the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Dink was the counter-guerrilla just as said by the Trabzon Governor. He added that he would only be able to obtain peace of mind after that trial would have been clarified."And he also "declared that the [court] decision of the Dink case confirmed the things he wrote." Who is that counter-guerilla? What are the behind the scenes? These are the things that we all want to know.

Therefore, all the connections should be investigated, whether it is the gendarmerie, the police, or other law enforcement and intelligence actors, regardless of their allegiance to this or that camp.

To conclude, what Dink's case illustrates unfortunately seems to be more how power struggles are shaped. If true, it is rather unfortunate that this is done by appropriating the name of a murder victim.

In the meanwhile, masses commemorate Hrant Dink and ask for justice.

To read detailed report accounts on the subject, please visit Hrant Dink Foundation's website:

[1] Whereas some news report no evidence was found against Akyürek, it is important to note that Rize Criminal Court did not allow to open any investigation against him or others in Trabzon Police Office under the premise that it was not deemed necessary. To read more on the subject in English, you can click here and here. Akyürek is also criticized as being the person who requested wire-taps and wire-tapped conversations to be under the jurisdiction of police intelligence office and whose request was accepted by the court. Under allegations of irregular wiretaps, he had testified to some deputies in the past.

[2] We had covered the case of TÜBİTAK together with other cases here on GIT - North America as one of the independent institutions now absorbed and controlled by the government.

[3] One such telling example is the case of late Türkan Saylan, who was a staunch Kemalist and with whom many of us would strongly disagree on many issues including her stance against the veil. Regardless of her political position, however, it is how she became a target through various discourses that she is brought up here: Saylan was accused of and attacked by conservative media, including Fethullah Gülen media flagship, under the allegations of being a PKK affiliate and a Christian missionary while she was investigated for being a member of Ergenekon. Of course, affiliating anyone claimed to be part of Ergenekon (which would imply ultra-Turkish-nationalism) with PKK is also odd. Additionally, perhaps not surprisingly, none of the "Christian missionary activity" was written in English in Today's Zaman, but in Turkish editorials and in Samanyolu--another Gülen media flagship that caters for a more "local" crowd. To see a sample of these click here for example, where Samanyolu publishes a "document" with the title "here is the document that shows Saylan's missionary activities"-- "exposing" Türkan Saylan's alleged Christian missionary activities. Because of this, Galatasaray University professor Ahmet İnsel criticized both the Gülenist and Kemalist nationalists as being anti-missionary in a piece on late Türkan Saylan. (To see Ahmet İnsel's piece in Radikal, click here). In this text, Ahmet İnsel illustrates how those "documents" were manipulated, as the "exposed" documents did not contain the data they claimed they did. Not that it matters whether Saylan was a missionary, she very well could be and that would still not be the point. The question is not whether she was indeed a missionary or not, but rather, why it is that they went as far as data manipulation and resorted to the additional use of a shady email as evidence to enforce a link between Saylan and Christian missionaryism, as if it were a bad thing? Doesn't this qualify as hate speech? What was even more strange is that Today's Zaman used the Cage/Kafes Plan mentioned above as one that plots murders of non-Muslims, about exactly a year after the "exposure" of Türkan Saylan to the Turkish public as a Christian missionary, and claimed that the ÇYDD, an NGO of which Saylan was the chairwoman, had stored the names of Christian missionaries, insinuating that Saylan et al were plotting against these missionaries. Again, of course, in this article written in English, without a mention of Christian missionary allegations against her [by their own media], Saylan was now accused of targeting against them--the missionaries--herself. Read that article here. The problems and oddities with the Cage Plan are cited above, as for the rest, they are simply very odd and an oxymoron to put it lightly. Considering all these dynamics and inconsistencies, one can reasonably anticipate more controversies, oddities and power struggles revolving around other cases of Christian murders, including missionary murders as well.

[4] The book Bi Ermeni Var (There is an Armenian) is written by journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan, who writes for the daily Bugün. The book also engages [Christian] missionaries, and points at the gendarmerie and the National Security Council as the main sources of the anti-missionary activities. It is true that these parties were quite hostile against non-Muslim missionaries as Kürşat Bumin points out in his piece linked above, and yet, as Bumin also criticizes in the same piece, they were not the only ones who had developed an anti-missionary stance. The rest of the problems are raised above.

[5] See fn.1. above.