Turkish ex-police chiefs jailed for journalist murder

Istanbul (AFP) –


Turkish judges on Friday handed life sentences to two former police chiefs and two top ex-security officers over the 2007 killing of a Turkish-Armenian journalist, local media reported.

Seventy-six suspects were facing charges including failing to uncover the plot to kill Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian bilingual newspaper.

Dink, a leading promoter of reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian communities, was shot twice in the head outside his office in central Istanbul.

His murder plunged Turkey's Armenian community into mourning and sparked a sprawling trial that lasted over a decade and involved senior security officers who were accused of being aware of the murder plot but failing to act.

Istanbul's main court sentenced the city's former police intelligence chief Ramazan Akyurek and his former deputy Ali Fuat Yilmazer to life in prison for "premeditated murder", according to Agos.

Former top Istanbul interior ministry officers Yavuz Karakaya and Muharrem Demirkale were also jailed for life while charges against another top city police chief were dropped due to the statute of limitation.

Ogun Samast, who was an unemployed 17-year-old at the time, had confessed to the murder and was sentenced to almost 23 years in jail in 2011.

Ali Oz, a former interior ministry commander of the Black Sea region of Trabzon where the gunman came from, was sentenced to 28 years in jail on Friday.

- 'Bitter taste'-

Dink's supporters and human rights activists still believe that the most senior police officials have gone unpunished and want the investigation and trials to run on.

"Some of those responsible for this assassination, including the sponsors, have still not been prosecuted," said Erol Onderoglu, Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who has closely followed the trial.

"This partial justice rendered after 14 years leaves a bitter taste and should not mark the end of the search for the truth."

For years, prosecutors have looked into alleged links between the suspects and US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of masterminding a failed coup against President Recept Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

The Istanbul court on Friday ruled that Dink's murder was committed "in line with the objectives of Feto" -- an acronym Ankara uses for Gulen's banned movement, NTV reported.

Dink's wife Rakel had said in January that blaming Gulen's movement for her husband's death nearly a decade before the failed coup was like "I didn't kill him, but my hand did".