Turkish intelligence agency tries to derail the case of murdered Armenian journalist

The entrance to the headquarters of MIT, Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, in Ankara.

Levent Kenez

 

The Turkish intelligence agency has been trying to derail the case of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, whose murder pointed to shadowy elements within the Turkish security and intelligence establishment. 

Although the murder took place in broad daylight in İstanbul almost 13 years ago, Turkish authorities have failed to bring to justice the masterminds behind the assassination of Dink. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), which was revealed to have threatened the the journalist when he was alive, is accused of intervening in the trial right from the start in an effort to prevent the unmasking of the real figures behind the teenage triggerman.

On March 14, 2019 the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, trying public officers accused of negligence in the murder, surprisingly ruled to call as witnesses MİT officials who met with Dink at the office of a deputy governor in 2004. It was a turning point in the history of the case since the court has repeatedly rejected any requests from other defendants as well as Dink’s lawyers regarding MİT.

Dink previously wrote about the meeting, saying that he was told it would not be good for him if he continued to make controversial statements. It is known that  that Dink was warned and threatened at the meeting, which took place a few weeks after he published a report claiming that Sabiha Gökçen, one of the symbols of the women of modern Turkey and the adopted daughter of Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, was in fact an Armenian who was orphaned during the Armenian massacres of 1915.

As expected, MİT neither allowed officials Kubilay Günay, Özel Yılmaz and Handan Selçuk to appear in court nor did it respond to the court’s subpoena. Moreover, Emre Efe Şimşek, the presiding judge who ordered that the MİT officials be called to testify, was removed from the trial a few weeks before a hearing on November 26, 2019.

The new chief judge, Emrah Korkmaz, on his first day presiding over the trial, ruled that the court would reconsider in the following days its previous decision to call MİT officials, expressing his unwillingness to allow them to appear in court, upon the request of the head prosector, who strongly opposed hearing anyone from the intelligence agency.

It defies understanding why a court declines to interview key intelligence officials who most definitely have crucial information about the murdered journalist, given the fact that it was unthinkable that MİT did not keep track of an Armenian journalist who was on the front burner at the time. It was confirmed that MİT shared information with Dink’s family that he would face an armed attack while he was in Australia to attend a conference in 2003.

Ergün Güngör

Then-İstanbul Deputy Governor Ergun Güngör was not as lucky as the MİT officials and testified on September 5, 2019 via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) as he was a deputy governor in Balıkesir, a city in the west of Turkey.

Göngür told the panel of judges that he was in charge of minorities at the İstanbul Governor’s Office between 2002-2008 and that he organized the meeting upon the request of MİT following the approval of then-Governor Muammer Güler, who later became interior minister in Erdoğan’s cabinet and resigned after a probe into graft in which he and his son were implicated in December 2013.

Thus, Güngör refuted the early statements of MİT officials that they were at Güngör’s office by coincidence when Dink was there. On the contrary, Güngör testified that it was an organized and scheduled meeting and emphasized that the meeting took place upon MİT’s request. The meeting dealt with Dink’s latest publication about Gökçen.

15. PARÇA Özel YILMAZ a ait 22-12-2014 tarih ve 2014-40810 soruşturma sayılı ifade tutanağı ( 233-246 arası ) (1)

Another revelation Güngör made during his testimony was that the MİT officials asked him to introduce them as his relatives while talking to Dink.

“I asked Dink, ‘Do you mind if some of my relatives are present during our meeting?’ and he replied ‘No’,” Güngör said.

According to Güngör, Dink handed over documents regarding Gökçen’s ethnicity, and they were taken by the MİT officials in the room.

 

Hrant Dink

Dink wrote about this meeting in his column in Agos on January 12, 2007, a week before his murder. Titled “Why I was selected as a target,” the article elaborated on the meeting. Dink recalled that one of the male guests (Özel Yılmaz, deputy regional director of MİT in İstanbul) dominated the conversation and indicated in no uncertain terms that he had to refrain from causing trouble. Apparently, it was not so difficult for Dink to understand that the unexpected people in the room were not relatives of the deputy governor.

“I was just about to leave the room, I noticed that they were not even interested in the documents. I asked them if they would like to take them. Actually, given the content of the conversation, it was obvious why I was invited… I must know my place. I must watch my step. If not, it would not be good for me,” Dink wrote.

The next hearing will be held on February 18, 2020. It is still unclear whether the court will call the MİT officials as witnesses.

Dink, the then-editor-in-chief of Agos, was killed by 17-year-old Ogün Samast on January 19, 2017 after a systematic smear campaign waged against Dink due to his remarks on Turks and the 1915 Armenian incidents. Samast was caught and sentenced to 22 years, 10 months in prison.

Nordic Monitor previously published how the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shielded MİT and some bureaucrats from the judicial investigation looking into the alleged roles of elements within Turkey’s security establishment which helped contribute deliberately or negligently to the murder of the journalist.

The Erdoğan government seems to put the blame in Dink’s case on journalists, police and military officers critical of the government who were purged following the controversial coup attempt in 2016 in an effort to whitewash Erdoğan’s current neo-nationalist partners, mostly top retired anti-EU and anti-Western officers and bureaucrats who committed unlawful acts against religious minorities including Christian missionaries as well as Kurds and devout Muslims in the recent history of Turkey.

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